What is NLP? (Neuro Linguistic Programming)

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."
(O. Wendell Holmes)

Neuro Linguistic Programming was developed by R. Bandler and J. Grinder in the early 1970s.

NLP is an eclectic body of thought which is a branch of the Cognitive Sciences and Cognitive Behavioural Psychology. It grew out of General Semantics (Korzybski), Transformational Grammar (Chomsky), Anthropology and Cybernetics (Bateson), Reframing (Watzlawick et al), Family Systems (Virginia Satir), Gestalt Therapy (Perls), Medical Hypnosis (Erickson) and several related studies.

It consists of a set of models, presuppositions, patterns, techniques, and observation-based theories resulting from the study of the structure of subjective experience, behaviour and communication. It begins with an interest in people and a quite holistic concept of the person. A basic principle : "Our mind and body are interconnected and we are responsible for the models of the world we create".

NLP has two areas of application : how we communicate with others and how we communicate with ourselves. NLP explores the relationship between

-how we know, how we think (neuro)
-what we know, how we communicate both verbally and non-verbally (linguistic)
-how we do what we do. our patterns of behaviour and emotion (programmes).

It is about how we do things and shows how -to run your brain, to be a more-effective human being, -to improve your learning and communication skills, your mind influences in your health and to control how you feel. Nowadays, NLP seems to be a positive element for a lot of people. However, in spite of its growing influence all over the world, there is some criticism against it.



The Presuppositions of NLP

NLP makes a number of presuppositions . Presuppositions or assumptions are the beliefs a person will find useful in effecting changes to themselves and/or to the world.

Some presuppositions

-Behind every behaviour is a positive intention.
-Every behaviour has a value and is useful in some context. There is a positive intention behind every behaviour.
-Communication is more than what you are saying.
-The meaning of a communication is the response you get.
-If you aren't getting the response you want, try something different
-There is no such thing as failure, only feedback.
-No one is wrong.
-The map is not the territory.
-If someone can do something, anyone can learn it.
-All distinctions human beings are able to make concerning our environment and our behaviour can be usefully represented through the visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, olfactory, and gustatory senses.
-The body communicates constantly in ways that go far beyond words.
-People already have all the resources they need to effect a change.
-Choice is better than no choice.
-You cannot fail to communicate.

Have a look at some tips for your lessons based on these presuppositions :

-Using the influence of positive management. Efficient communication requires positive instructions.
-Maintaining the balance between controlling pupils' behaviour and fostering the growth of positive human values
-Being realistic and very precise. Be as clear as possible. Use smaller outcomes before bigger ones.
-Class feedback centred on the activity rather than the content.
-Help the students to express what they want to say.
-Creating an optimum external and external environment for learning

You can find quite practical these materials for your lessons too.



NLP and the different learning styles

NLP's practical applications include understanding how we learn, developing strategies for both students and teachers, using our five senses, and making use of accelerated learning techniques. One of its contributions in education is to make teachers think more about VAKOG - the different learning styles (Visual, Auditory, Kinaesthetic, Olfactory, Gustatory). Each one of us learns in a different way. V, A and K are the ones most often used.

It is important to know the student's learning style. If you can speak the language your students normally use, you will connect with them at a deeper level. There are different tests available in the web to know your predominant learning style :





Each of us learns in all three of these modalities to some degree, but most people prefer one over the other two. We appear to have a preference for the way we sense the world. Some of us are strongly:

VISUAL : We learn through what we see and we learn best by "seeing" colour pictures, videotapes or graphics. Visual learners learn best when they see the material on a page or on a blackboard; they like demonstrations of the material. They prefer to read the handouts and look at the illustrations the presenter puts on the board. They also take excellent notes. Visual people :

-are neat and orderly
-speak quickly
-are good long-range planners and organisers
-are observant of environmental detail
-are appearance-oriented in both dress and presentation
-are good spellers and can actually see the words in their minds
-remember what was seen, rather than heard
-memorise by visual association
-usually are not distracted by noise
-may forget verbal instructions unless they're written down
-are fast readers
-would rather read than be read to
-need an overall view and purpose and are cautious until mentally clear about an issue or project
-orget to relay verbal messages to others
-often know what to say but can't think of the right words.

Sensory imput : Diagrams / Posters / Comics / Shapes / Objetcs / Photos / Video / Magazines / Cartoons / Catalogues / Visual games / Mind maps / Charts / Colours / Gestures / Boards / Overheads / Newspapers / Brochures / Drawings. Have a look at some activities for this type of learning preferences

: We learn from what we hear. We like to hear information - and we might be able to learn best while listening to music. Auditory learners learn best when they discuss the material. They prefer listening to the material and sometimes get lost if they try to take notes on the subject during a presentation. Auditory people :

-learn by listening, and remember what was discussed rather than seen
-speak in rhythmic patterns
-talk to themselves while working
-are easily distracted by noise
-move their lips and pronounce the words as they read
-enjoy reading aloud and listening
-can repeat back and mimic tone pitch and timbre
-find writing difficult, but are better at telling
-are frequently eloquent speakers
-are talkative, love discussion, and go into lengthy descriptions
-have problems with projects that involve visualisation
-can spell better out loud than in writing

Sensory input : Stories / Songs / Music / Sounds / Listening / Repetition / Cassettes / Dialogues / Instructions / Discussion / Rhythm / Dictation / Pair-work / Identify voices / Radio / Listen video / Reading aloud / Whispering games / Identify sounds / Role play. Have a look at some activities for this type of learning preferences

KINAESTHETIC : We learn from movement and touching. We learn best through physical movement. Kinaesthetic learners need to do projects and to be actively involved. They do best with "hands on" activities and group interaction. Kinaesthetic people :

-learn by manipulating and doing
-want to act things out
-speak slowly
-touch people to get their attention
-stand close when talking to someone
-are physically oriented and move a lot, gesture a lot
-memorise by walking and seeing
-can't sit still for long periods of time
-can't remember geography unless they've actually been there
-use action words
-like plot-oriented books - they reflect action with body movement as they read
-may have messy handwriting
-like involved game

Sensory input : Mime / Brain gym / Physical exercise / Moving around / Role play / Surveys / Acting out / Relaxation / Games / Project work / Touching. Have a look at some activities for this type of learning preferences

Knowing these different learning styles or preferences can help educators reach all of their students simply by presenting information in several different ways. Give the students a lot of sensory input. Normally activities in our classroom are referred principally to all the three V, A or K and sometimes we forget the K when we teach older students.



NLP in teaching and in education

Neuro Linguistic Programming enhances people to be aware of what they want to achieve, to stablish their own goals and to do what they have to do to achieve them. It is very useful to help people to make the most of themselves. That's why it can be very useful in education. Some key points of NLP are :

OUTCOME- know what you want in class (goal, objective)
SENSITIVITY- keep your senses open to know what you are getting
FLEXIBILITY- flexible enough to change your behaviour until you get what you want

"The better the teacher, the better the learning". NLP's practical applications include understanding how we learn, developing strategies for both students and teachers, using our five senses, and making use of accelerated learning techniques. Education is a way to open our minds and NLP can help us in this task

NLP can help teachers and learners making our students better learners and better users of the target language, helping teachers design task, exercises and strategies, improving our relationship and communication skills with the students, reminding us the differences between learners, offering teachers and students more choices about behaviour and emotions and developing new abilities in thinking.

But NLP is more than a teaching method. It is an approach to life, learning and communication. For NLP, "the mind is like a parachute - it works only when it is open".

NLP can enhance all aspects of our life by improving our learning to teach effectively, gaining a stronger sense of self-esteem, greater motivation, better understanding of communication and other things which involve our brain. I t gives us the opportunity to communicate better with others and to learn how to gain more control over what we considered to be automatic functions of our own neurology. It helps to open our minds because :

-it tells us about how we think and learn.
-it offers a technology for creating changes offering teachers and students more choices about behaviour and emotion
-it enhances communication and relationships
-it develops new abilities in thinking
-it generates life skills
-it can improve learning

Just in case you are interested in this issue, there is more information in web sites like BBC, the Wikipedia, or You can read some articles in the web too.

And remember this Chinese proverb :

"If you want one year of prosperity, grow seeds,
If you want ten years of prosperity, grow trees,
If you want one hundred years of prosperity, grow people"



Some basic reading:

Fletcher M, (2000). Teaching for Succes. Brain friendly Publications

Revell, J & Norman, S (1997). In Your Hands. London, Saffire Press.

Revell, J & Norman, S. (1999). Handing Over. London, Saffire Press.

O'Connor, J. & Seymour, J. (1990) Introducing Neuro-Linguistic Programming. London, HarperCollins.

Verlee Williams, L. (1983). Teaching for the two-sided mind. New Jersey, Prentice-Hall.