NLP The Basics

NLP, neuro linguistic programming, has got people talking and for good reason. This personal change technique has been around for years, in fact it was developed by John Bandler and Richard Grinder in California in the 1970’s. And has recently made a resurgence within the coaching community as many awesome practitioners are harnessing the magic of this approach to communication, personal development and psychology to leverage wonderful results with clients in lots of super creative ways! In fact, it has so many wonderful applications it’d probably be easier to list where it isn’t used. You may have heard the term coming up in education, sports coaching, therapy, corporate and more.

NLP is whatever works
— Robert Dilts
bullet journal

NLP studies how we structure our subjective experience – how we think about our values and beliefs and how we create emotional states – and how we construct our internal world from our experience to give it meaning. Simple!

Recently, a friend of mine asked me to explain NLP to her followed by ‘how do you do it’. I think there is a common assumption that NLP is a set of tricks/tools you whip out of your toolkit and work through with a client. I am here to tell you that is certainly not the case. NLP is many things… magic, yes often. But it comes from a place of subtlety where great coaching behaviours and exciting techniques merge together. As an NLP coach I learnt these subtle foundations before delving into any of the awesome tools that go hand in hand. And in sessions with my clients I am always thinking from an NLP perspective… using its awesome behaviours… but you wouldn’t even notice!

NLP like many great coaching techniques works on the conscious and unconscious mind. Believing that everyone has all the resources they need to change, or they can create them.

Here are some of the buzz words you might have heard floating around about NLP clarified to help you gain a deeper understanding and how this great change technique could benefit you!

NLP simply:

Neuro – the mind and how we think

Linguistic – how we use language and how it affects us

Programming – how we sequence our actions to achieve goals



NLP studies brilliance and quality – how outstanding individuals and organisations get their outstanding results. Professionals ‘modal’ great techniques and behaviours of highly effective people and then apply these to future situations.

NLP is more than just a collection of techniques. It is also a way of thinking, a frame of mind based on curiosity, exploration and fun
— J O'Connor


In NLP we talk about outcomes over goals. We’re talking about something that goes way deeper than just your average goal. Goal is equal to action. When it comes to outcomes we are really focussing on what you want – a desired state. Something you don’t have in your present state. NLP outcomes are different from targets, goals and objectives because they have been carefully considered and meet certain conditions that make them realistic, motivating and achievable!

change is a journey from an unsatisfactory present state towards a desired state – your outcome. You use various resources to help you make the journey
— O'Connor

Eye accessing cues

Or LEM – Lateral Eye Movements as you might have also know them. Spoiler alert… not the secret to mind reading or an alternative to a lie detector test! But a super intuitive way to understand how a person stores info, understands language and re-uses information.

Eye accessing cues in NLP are movements of the eyes in certain direction that indicate visual, auditory or kinaesthetic thinking.

By asking specific types of questions and taking note of eye direction we can understand more about how a person is processes/experiencing the world. This in turn helps us grasp a greater understanding of their individual needs.

What it’s not

Like most coaching and change techniques NLP is not a quick fix to a any given scenario. Yes, there may be subtle short-term changes you notice straight away – a lightbulb moment – a new perspective uncovered about a situation you are seeing from a new understanding. But as the name suggests NLP is about rejigging, about building new patterns and ways of seeing/understanding and implementing. All the best change takes work. It’s personal, can be challenging but is more liberating than anything else around!


In this short post we have touched on the tip of a brilliantly bright ice burg. Uncovered a few snippets to help get your curiosity tuned in. As you may have grasped this world of NLP is indeed vast! It also has super creative applications for life and work. I have talked about building rapport and trust in my previous blog – this too is key to effective NLP and coaching. Without a great connection with your coach these magic tools and techniques fall short.

Now, i’m not going to give all my secrets away in this short post but if you’d like to learn more about NLP or person-centred creative coaching drop me a line or book a complimentary discovery call.