What is NLP? - (P.S. - Reading this will not hypnotise you)

Offered By Let's Make Time

A guy I used to work with was a Master in NLP.  It seemed quite fancy (and a bit poncey), but I had no idea what NLP was.  I knew he coached people and made them feel better.  I put my guard up, thinking he was going to do a ‘Tony Robbins’ number on me, but what he said will always stay in my mind….NLP is a set of skills and tools to learn how to use your brain properly.   I wasn’t ready for full-throttle brain changing, so I parked the thought and carried on with my life.

Young woman sitting at desk happily looking out of her office window.

A few years later my best buddy asked me to perform her civil ceremony speech for her UK wedding (she lives in Australia).  I found myself saying “Yes, I’d love to”, when the little niggly voice in my head said “You can’t do it, you’ll get really nervous, your heart will feel like it’s pumping through your ribcage, your hands will be getting sweaty and you’ll fluff it up.  Remember that time you went for an audition and you failed.  You’re such a loser!”. 

The Tipping Point for Change

This was the tipping point when I knew I needed help for some presentation skills and a confidence boost. I searched for ‘presentation skills training’ and a local woman popped up, who took me through an hour’s worth of traditional skills, focusing on voice projection, tone, pace and storytelling.  She taught me how to change how I felt instantly (via NLP anchoring), so I chose to feel relaxed, energetic and to experience the feeling of fun.

NLP student and practitioner laughing together during session

When the wedding date arrived, I was able to enjoy the lead-up to and the actual ceremony.  Yes, the nerves were still there, but I didn’t fluff my lines, my throat didn’t dry up like pot noodle dust and I enjoyed the magical time with my friends.

This experience prompted me to find out more about NLP, as I thought “If I can change my mood instantly, that’s going to be pretty helpful with being mum to two and step-mum to three”.  Yes, sometimes it’s a challenge keeping calm with teens and tweens in the house!  I couldn’t believe it when I changed the way I asked my then 14 year old daughter to tidy her room…..and she did it.  I knew I was onto something.

Happy teenage girl creating heart symbol with her hands

So, What is NLP?

Fast forward three years and I now am a (not-so) poncey NLP Master Practitioner. 

I describe NLP in a number of ways:


  • Neuro - how we think (and experience the world)
  • Linguistic - verbal and non-verbal communication
  • Programming - patterns of behaviour and emotions


Infographic detailing processes of NLP

NLP has been defined as the “users manual for your mind” because studying NLP gives us insights into how our thinking patterns can affect every aspect of our lives. (ANLP).

I like a cliched analogy, so think of NLP like this - It’s like us all being in boats in the ocean.  We all have a place to get to.  We could just bob along and get there, but once we know how to adapt the sails of our boat (our mind) to use the wind to our favour, to balance the load, to learn the ropes, trim the sails, tack successfully,……we learn how to get to our destination quicker and learn how to navigate and respond to rough seas and storms.  Stay with me.

A Toolkit of Communication Skills

NLP is a series of communication skills and tools that help people communicate better with themselves and others around them to create better experiences. 

NLP is a toolbox of skills and insights to:-

  •  run your life more successfully
  • communicate with other people much more effectively
  • acquire skills to do what you cannot do right now, but would like to be able to do
  • manage your thoughts, moods and behaviours more effectively, think clearly
  • have fulfilling relationships
  • uninstall anxiety
  • dealing with trauma, stopping unhelpful habits, phobias - the list goes on

Happy male laughing with colleague

The Origins of NLP

You’re probably wondering who created NLP and why? Well, back in the 1970s, in California, two guys called Richard Bandler and John Grinder teamed up after having a fascination with human excellence (how people achieve great things), which involved modelling (imitating) behavioural patterns of selected geniuses.

They modelled three people, Fritz Perls (Gestalt Therapy), Virginia Satir (Family Therapist) and Milton Erickson (hypnotherapist), which gave Bandler and Grinder the opportunity to start creating coded results of their work in the NLP models we use today.  They realised that their models were transferable to others, meaning the learners could use the NLP models successfully in their own work and home lives.

Happy group of colleagues standing by a wall

The study of self-talk fascinates me, especially since learning about the power of language. It is incredible.  According to Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman, words can literally change your brain.  Their studies prove that negative words release stress and anxiety-inducing hormones.

In their book,'Words Can Change Your Brain', they write: “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.”

The Power of Positive Words

Positive words, such as “peace” and “love,” can alter the expression of genes, strengthening areas in our frontal lobes and promoting the brain’s cognitive functioning. They propel the motivational centers of the brain into action, according to the authors, and build resiliency.”

So, when we know how to change our language, we can make ourselves feel better, start changing our thoughts, which will then change our behavior and affect the outcome of our daily experiences.

Sometimes it’s less than easy to think positively, but think of it like this.  Every time we think with positive words, we are clearing a fast track in our neural pathways, like we're going through the jungle for the first time with a big machete.  At first there’ll be branches and undergrowth to cut down.  The more often we tread this path and clear the way, the quicker we’ll be able to get through.  The positive messages will be received clearer and quicker to the brain.  You’ll literally teach your brain to think positively, in an instant.  Yes, it does take practice, as we seem to have been programmed to worry. 

Portrait of happy mature man wearing glasses

That worry and anxiety is there to keep us safe, but we no longer need to be in constant anxiety mode, as we’re not facing sabre-toothed tigers during our daily experiences, unless you’re working on the set of ‘Night at the Museum’. 

Refocusing Our Thoughts 

NLP gives us the opportunity to install unhelpful thoughts and behaviours and replace them with helpful stuff that allows us to live the life we deserve (not just wish for).

This is why I love NLP.  It’s given me the opportunity to discover my blind spots, to be aware of how I can alter the mood in the room, to change my mood in an instant, to always have a courageous conversation, to have healthy relationships, where I can say “no” to stuff (and people) and “yes” to stuff that used to scare me before. 

Group hiking up rocks near open water

NLP gave me the ability to build myself up from the inside out when I recovered from a terminal bowel cancer diagnosis in 2017.  The skills and tools have improved all of my relationships, especially with my ‘self’.  I no longer take antidepressants to cope.  I now have all the skills and tools to carry on building resilience, increase my daily happiness levels and communicate with everyone around me.  I no longer mind-read situations or listen to the stories I used to tell myself.  

It’s given me flexibility in my responses to drama, trauma and setbacks.  I now have a sense of curiosity that reminds me that everyone experiences the world in different ways.  I love knowing that life is a series of failures, wins and groundhog days, but how we choose to respond to these experiences is totally within making simple changes to our thoughts and actions.  I call it failing forwards. 

“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’ll always be right”  - Henry Ford

NLP is easy and it’s for everyone.


Want to keep learning?  Read more about the author, Tasha Thor-Straten - Let's Make Time.

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