Keeping NLP Authentic on Wikipedia

There has been a lot of controversy over the NLP article at Wikipedia over the years.  So this website has been developed to help keep things in order on Wikipedia.  This is primarily about content.  Frankly, as the development of NLP goes, the New Code NLP is about the most up to date, the most authentic, and the least open to ridicule by conflation with new age nonsense.  So below is the most relevant content for the NLP article:

First up, it needs a sensible intro and explanation for the name.  For example:

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a new field, concerned with the processes of how we live our lives, and our patterns of behaviour and communication. Patterns include not only our observable actions in the world but also our thinking processes and the organization of our states of mind. This includes our emotions and how we use our attention with our senses. The focus of NLP as a discipline is in finding and creating patterns to build and teach models of human excellence. This activity is called modelling and is one of the key features that distinguish NLP from psychology. Consider this site your  gateway to authentic NLP, you will find information, processes, articles and interviews with leading NLP trainers about Neuro-Linguistic Programming and the New Code of NLP.

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) allows people to access to the behaviours and thought processes of individual top performers. It is an operational model of language and thinking.

  • Neuro - we only know and represent the world through our neurological processes (our mind, body and sensory systems - the five senses.)
  • Linguistic - refers to the use of language to order thought and behaviour (the words we use to mediate our sensory representations)
  • Programming - reflects the way ideas and thought are organized into actions, often in a largely automatic way
It is very important to maintain an authoritative and convincing definition for NLP.  The Oxford English Dictionary definition is by far the closest to the new code definition, and it is a lot more rigorous than others:  "It is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as "a model of interpersonal communication chiefly concerned with the relationship between successful patterns of behaviour and the subjective experiences (esp. patterns of thought) underlying them; a system of alternative therapy based on this which seeks to educate people in self-awareness and effective communication, and to change their patterns of mental and emotional behaviour"

It also helps if you have some good authentic NLPers and their view:

Dr. John Grinder, the co-creator of NLP, offers the following important definition in a recent book co-authored with Carmen Bostic St. Clair, entitled "Whispering in the Wind":

"NLP is a modelling technology whose specific subject matter is the set of differences that make the difference between the performance of geniuses and that of average performers in the same field of activity. In this sense, the objective of modelling studies in NLP is to explicate in a transferable and learnable code those sets of differences."

You  might have to deal with multiple definitions, so here is some info:

Definitions of NLP

In most fields of endeavour such as Psychology or Linguistics you can pick up a number of introductory text books and read slightly different definitions of the field and varying descriptions of the material shaped by the particular authors individual ‘take’ on the subject. NLP is no different. Having multiple descriptions creates in the reader a richer appreciation of the subject matter with finer and hopefully more useful distinctions. Of course different descriptions are only useful in so far as the particular authors have an accurate understanding of the subject matter themselves. Unfortunately this is not always the case. There are all sorts of nonsense passing for definitions of NLP. In the following section we will address this problem by offering a number of definitions and descriptions of NLP from reputable sources.

On our website I (Chris Collingwood) defined NLP as

“… an epistemology, in that it studies how we know what we know. It is also a methodology for creating practical descriptions of how we function as human beings. The purpose of NLP is to study, describe and transfer models of human excellence. NLP explores the relationships between how we think (neuro), how we communicate both verbally and non-verbally (linguistic) and our patterns of behaviour and emotion (programmes) (Collingwood, 2001)”.

Co-creator of NLP John Grinder and his partner Carmen Bostic St Clair use a more technical definition of NLP in their book Whispering In The Wind as

“… a modelling technology whose specific subject matter is the set of differences that make the difference between the performance of geniuses and that of average performers in the same field or activity. In this sense, the objective of modelling studies in NLP is to explicate in a transferable and learnable code these sets of differences. The core activity, then, is the mapping of tacit knowledge onto an explicit model (2001, p50)”.

There are a number of earlier descriptions of NLP. In the forward to Neuro-Linguistic Programming Volume 1; The study of the structure of subjective experience the founders of NLP, Dr. John Grinder and Richard Bandler, defined NLP as

“Neuro-Linguistic Programming is the discipline whose domain is the structure of subjective experience. It makes no commitment to theory, but rather has the status of a model – a set of procedure whose usefulness not truthfulness is to be the measure of its worth” (Dilts et al; 1980).

Even though Dilts et refer to NLP as having the status of a model it is important to note that the model called Neuro-Linguistic Programming contains within it a series of models. See the section below called ‘key models of NLP’.

Further into the book they state

“The name neurolinguistic programming stands for what we maintain to be the basic process used by all human beings to encode, transfer, guide and modify behavior”.

Judith DeLozier and John Grinder (1987) define NLP as

‘an accelerated learning strategy for the detection and utilization of patterns in the world’.

In our book the NLP Field Guide we described NLP in the following way,

“We think of NLP as a field that explores the patterns of organisation of effective human intuition. Through modelling an expert's intuitive application of their skill, as Neuro-Linguistic Programmers, we can have those patterns of organisation for ourselves and / or make them available to others (Collingwood & Collingwood; 2001)”.

Through its focus on creating models of human excellence, many applications of NLP have been developed. People apply NLP to coaching, management, personal development, human change, counselling, and education. Any area of life where the quality of a person’s behaviour or communication is critical to the success of their outcome is amenable to NLP application.

Emphasize Modeling

Its important to emphasize modeling in NLP.  So often the skeptics try to bog the article down in criticism against the eye accessing model of NLP and try to criticise the whole of NLP based on studies of alcohol abuse.  But with a bit of reconsolidation you can change that information and emphasize modeling, so the article ends up covering some of the more abstract and less criticisable aspects of NLP. See below:

NLP Modelling

Modelling is the core activity that defines the field of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. The Oxford English Dictionary defines modelling as "the action or art of making models". In NLP we make a specific type of model, models of human excellence.

Cognitive Scientists Clapin, Staines and Slezak (2004) describe a model in the following way “In contrast with a theory, a model is a conceptual structure with a continuum of possibilities of which parts of the model are taken to have realistic counterpoints in the world”.

In NLP Bostic St Clair and Grinder (2001,p50) describe a model (specifically a model of human behaviour) as “…a description of some portion of the source’s behavior, a mapping from a complex set of interactions onto a reduced set of elements”.

In Neuro-Linguistic Programming we have a distinctive type of modelling called NLP modelling whose function is the creation of models of human excellence. In fact NLP modelling is the function of the discipline and the basis of the field. Note that we build models rather than theories of human excellence. Even though NLP is not a theory-building endeavor interestingly there is a growing body of evidence and theory from the cognitive sciences especially cognitive psychology that support findings from NLP discovered from the modelling process. See our paper on the Neuro Psychology of NLP Modelling at our online NLP Research Centre. So what is NLP modelling?

NLP Modelling is a methodology consisting of a series of processes for assimilating, reproducing, describing (coding) and transferring human capability, specifically human excellence.Grinder and Bostic St Clair (2001, p.271) define NLP modelling as “…the mapping of tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge”.

Just imagine for a moment that you had the ability when exposed to a behaviour or skill of excellence to take in and internalize that skill or behaviour. And consider what would be the consequences in your life of having that ability to effectively model human excellence. How often have you watched or listened to someone and wished that you had that ability?

Having explicit knowledge in the form of a model enables the transfer of human excellence to others. There are now a multitude of models, the product of NLP modelling projects used as applications in multiple domains including education, management, presentation, parenting, coaching, negotiation, selling, sports psychology, psychotherapy, politics and law.

If we describe modelling in a linear process, we can say that modelling begins with an unconscious uptake, followed by pattern detection, pattern testing, then description (coding) and packaging the patterns that make up the capability into forms suitable for reliable transfer to others.

The first phase is identifying an appropriate exemplar as the model of excellence. In phase two the modeller takes an unconscious uptake of patterns demonstrated by the model (this phase ties in with the findings on mirror neurons) avoiding conscious understanding at this stage. Phase three is an evaluative phase based on feedback gained from demonstrating the modelled patterns in the appropriate context. Phase four occurs when the modeller achieves criterion that is, he or she can reproduce the skill in the same context with the same outcomes in the same time frames as the model of excellence. At this stage in the modelling process the modeller sorts his or her behaviour keeping behaviours that are relevant and discarding those that are idiosyncratic and not essential to the skill being modelled. Phase five is the explicit coding stage where the constituent patterns of he model are coded (described) in a suitable form for transfer to others. The final phase is actual transfer of the skill to others with testing and modification of the model as necessary.

During the coding phase the model is developed within the framework of elegance that is, using the minimal number of distinctions necessary and sufficient to provide an effective replication of the talent (Grinder, DeLozier & Bandler, 1977). Thus by removing inessential features the capability is streamlined.

Right from the inception of NLP, the heart of NLP has been about building models of human behaviour. As Bandler and Grinder state in one of their first books, Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson M.D., “Our skill is in building explicit models of complex human behavior. What this means is that we build maps of complex patterns of behavior and these maps then allow other people to learn and use these behavior patterns (1975, p1.)”.

Modelling and Self Modelling

The same technology that we use to build models of an exemplars behaviour can be used to model our own best performance. John Grinder (1987, p.102) states “NLP is based on the assumption that we can model our own experience and therefore accelerate our own learning process in tremendous ways.”

Key Models of NLP

To summarise; NLP is a field that builds models of human excellence. It’s intellectual antecedents are in the Cognitive Sciences alongside its cousins Psychology, Linguistics and Anthropology with each field having domain specific methodologies best suited for research. See our NLP Research section.

NLP is a special discipline in the pantheon of disciplines in the Cognitive Sciences in that as an operational epistemology focused on building practical transferable models of excellence. The consequence of NLP is that complex human behaviour can be modelled and transferred to where it can be most useful.

The body of NLP is a collection of models. The main models comprising (listed in chronological order), of the Meta Model, the Representational System model- with the submodalities model as a sub-category, the Milton Model, Rapport, Anchoring, Perceptual Positions, Precision model and more recently the verbal package. There are also a number of minor models with a small number of constituent patterns.

In NLP a model comprises a set of patterns. For example the Meta Model is a collection of 12 language patterns, each pattern consisting of a linguistic form for which a verbal challenge is provided. The Meta Model has application to multiple contexts.

The Phobia reduction format comprises of a small number of patterns that have been packaged for the application of reducing phobias. It is a blend of specific NLP patterns designed for application to one context. It is a simple model with a narrow scope of application yet highly effective for its function – reducing simple phobias.

History of NLP

Richard Bandler, a psychology student and John Grinder, an assistant professor of linguistics began NLP in the mid 1970s at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Since that time NLP has continued to develop and spread to most major cities in the western world.

What makes NLP so effective is the attention that NLP trained and qualified people put to the process of communication and behaviour; how people craft their presentation, rather than why, making content explanations and justifications for a person’s actions irrelevant. By attending to the form of a person’s communication and behaviour, patterns can be detected, engaged and if necessary changed. If a person or an organization is not getting the outcomes they want, attending to and changing the patterns of organization in their activity becomes a leverage point towards their achieving the desired results.

One of the features of Neuro-Linguistic Programming is that it includes a model for how we code our experience. Consequently, we have the option to re-code any experience that limits us, if we so choose.

We take particular care when teaching this model called ‘submodalities’, that it is embedded within a larger framework, an aesthetic and ecological one, so that NLP students know when it is appropriate and when not to apply this class of intervention.

Significant developments in NLP; the recoding of NLP

In recent years NLP co-creator John Grinder and partners have undertaken a major review of the work in the field and recoded NLP. This major reorganization of NLP is called the ‘new code of NLP” and represents an articulation of the underlying principles of the discipline.

The recoding was begun by John Grinder with Judith DeLozier and then developed further by Grinder with Carmen Bostic St. Clair. The new code has as its basis an explicit epistemology, the separation of NLP modelling from NLP applications, and recommendations for research methodology. This reorganisation of NLP is best represented in Bostic St Clair and Grinder’s book Whispering in the Wind.


Bandler, Richard., Grinder, John. (1975) Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Ericksoon M.D. Volume 1. Capitola, CA; Meta Publications.

Bateson, Gregory., Bateson, Mary Catherine. (1985). Angels Fear; An investigation into the nature and meaning of the sacred. New York: MacMillan

Bostic St. Clair, C., Grinder, J.T. (2001). Whispering In The Wind. Scotts Valley, CA: J & C Enterprises.

Collingwood, C.R.J., (2001) .

Collingwood, Jules., Collingwood, Chris. (2001). The NLP Field Guide; Part 1. A reference manual of Practitioner level patterns. Sydney: Emergent Publications.

DeLozier, Judith., Grinder, John. (1987). Turtles all the Way Down; Prerequisites to Personal Genius. Bonny Doon CA: Grinder, DeLozier and Associates.

Dilts, Robert., Grinder, John., Bandler, Richard., Cameron-Bandler, Leslie., DeLozier, Judith. (1980). Neuro-Linguistic Programming Volume 1; The study of the structure of subjective experience. Cupertino, CA: Meta Publications.

Grinder, John., DeLozier, Judith,. Bandler, Richard. (1977). Patterns of the Hypnotic Technique of Milton H. Erickson, M.D. Volume 2. Capitola, CA; Meta Publications


The state of the NLP article will depend on how much disruption by those wishing to disparage NLP is going on at the time, but as long as a constructive long term presence is working to maintain the article and its sub-articles with authentic NLP then things will always meet their well formed outcome.  The best way forward is to keep persistently exposing those editors who can be characterized as HeadleyDown sockpuppets, whilst making intelligent use of what can be reasonably promoted as reliable sources to keep the skeptical view from disparaging the field of NLP.  

Some useful links:

NLP Knowledge Center
Useful articles in Inspiritive website
Useful courses to gain knowledge in New Code

Contact and Coordination:

There are more recommendations on the Exposing Socks article with facilities for direct email contact via verification.    As always its a good idea to stay civil and if you want to slow down the skeptics just keep on pushing but within 3RR.