NLP Principles

The NLP principles presented here are the very essence of NLP and what lies in its core. They are a foundation of supreme psychotherapists’ work, for whom you may not heard. What is certain is that there are people around you who have managed to make a step forward and inspire others to follow the same path and achieve required goals.

Experience has a structure


This is the most important principle of NLP because Bendler and Grinder have started from it when they began with studying the work of Fritz Perls. They assumed that the results this psychotherapist was achieving were not the result of the techniques applied only, but that there was something deeper, enabling Perls to lead the session in the exact way the client needs.

The structure of the experience, in the situation given, is related to attitudes a person has, to everything that matters to that person, to how that person sees himself, what it is that he tells to himself constantly, since that is foundation for the attitude that every experience can be ‘modelled’, or to put it another way, that every result has the inner structure that is not visible but that has the dominant influence.

Becoming a champion of any sort doesn’t only take a supreme skill but mastering strategies es well, ways of thinking, values, beliefs and vision that champions have because that is the foundation the skill can be developed on.

The goal of NLP is to create detailed experience description through so-called models. Good models are simple and other people can follow them and adopt them easily. NLP starts from the assumption that all skills can be modelled, however it is not possible to completely adopt the experience of the person we model. The experience is something that needs to be created on our own. If we enter the process of creating experience with curiosity and willingness to experiment, than we’ve made a crucial first step.

The reaction of the counterpart gives meaning to the communication.


Every behavior is communication. When we talk, but when we remain silent as well – we communicate. If what we do or don’t do, say or don’t say affects people around us, than we are constantly telling something – we are communicating something.  Our verbal and non-verbal communication constantly transfers messages to other people. Practically we cannot avoid communicating.

Considering that in NLP we are dealing with the impressions of the subject, what happened in a certain situation is irrelevant, it matters how we and our counterpart registered what happened. Regardless of the intention, we are responsible to transmit the message to the listener in the right way. The listener has no responsibility of receiving the message exactly how we previously planned.

It is absolutely irrelevant that the salesperson thinks of his presentation if the client thinks the presentation is not good. If our goal is to make our client buy the product, it is only important whether he will do it after this presentation and if he doesn’t, to keep changing our behavior until we achieve our goal – selling the product.

Accepting this reality really pays off. Being aware of this can give us more control over the influence we have on others, as well as over the results we achieve through working with them.

A map is not a territory.


‘A map is not a territory’ is a metaphor of a famous Polish philosopher Alfred Korzybsky. We perceive only a little part of the world we live in and based on that perception we create our personal experience – we are creating our own map that depicts our reality. Although we tend to consider these two completely the same, the reality and our perception of the reality are two completely different things. It is common that our ‘realistic’ and ‘objective’ attitude is opposed to ‘objective’ and ‘real’ attitude of our counterpart.

Therefore, the map is a metaphor in NLP, for our view of the world and the territory presents the real world. We don’t make a difference between the ‘right and wrong’ maps, we tend to consider them as more or less useful or useless in a given context.

During our lives, our map of the reality changes, sometimes it expands and sometimes it shrinks, sometimes we simply change our map for another, more useful map. Sometimes we go into conflict with other people because their map is not even remotely similar to ours. Our map of the world is determined by the way we tend to see the world. If we change the way we see people and events, we will notice that they get a completely new meaning for us and that the world begins changing on its own. The most important thing regarding maps is that, regardless of how close and dear they are to us, not even one of them is 100% true. Maps are only a medium (not the goal itself) that we can change if we want to. NLP provides us with the tools that we can use to change less useful maps for more useful ones in a certain context.

People always choose what’s best for them.


Sometimes it happens that the option we see as the best is not our best choice in a long-term, but in a given moment and based on the information we have, as well as our experience up to date, it seems like the best option. The choice is one of the basic values of the NLP, so the situations with multiple choices are highly appreciated.

What is usually considered a mistake (wrong behavior, bad choice) is only our subjective, personal impression.

If we allow ourselves and others a broader choice among various options, we will most certainly select the best one.

Every type of behavior is based on a good intention.


One of the basic principles of Peris, Satire and Erickson in their work with clients was that behind every behavior, no matter how dysfunctional it is or even destructive – there is a good intention.

Even destructive behaviors have some good intention in its foundation. We all know that smoking is harmful for our health, but great part of the population still consumes cigarettes. There is a moment of pleasure or calming down, which actually is the good intention behind smoking. The more drastic example is a bank robbery, in which the robber has a good intention to provide himself nice and comfortable living.

It is likely that all of you were, at some moment of your lives, in a situation to think: ‘I destroy everything I touch’ or ‘I can never do anything right’. However, even if you were convinced in this, you most certainly searched for the best solution for yourself and you had a good intention of achieving certain things, but your experience and the information you had at your disposal made you take action that did not lead to preferred result.

It is very useful to make effort during interaction with others, to try to recognize the good intention that is behind strange choices and models of behavior and, by doing so, make an effort to find an alternative way for fulfilling such good behavior in further interaction.

A mind and a body are in unity.


This is the most practical of all NLP principles because all of us was able to experience it at least once. This principle supports NLP model that says that thoughts, emotions and philology make one whole. How many times did it happen to you that people who are in a good mood give you a compliment for your looks? On the contrary, when we are sad there’s a greater chance that we might catch a cold. Imuno-biology is studying the relation between our immune system, our thoughts and our emotional condition. Creators of NLP Bendler and Grinder would usually say in some of their courses: ‘’We don’t say that all of the problems are psychological, but if we assume they are, we might be able to help in solving that problem. We want to analyze all NLP principles from the perspective of applicability in personal development and success.

Imagine, only for a moment, that you are a salesman entering a building of your potential client, a building made entirely of marble and glass. Interior is all neat, and you are overwhelmed by a pleasant smell and some nice music from the very first step. Sometimes it may happen that this exact environment makes you become anxious about the appointment that is just about to begin. If something like this happens and your body starts kinking slightly, it is almost certain that your thoughts will turn negative as well. It is hard to stay focused on the result you want to achieve while your emotions tell you to get out of there.

We have all the resource we need in order to make a change.


This principle is telling us that solution to our potential problem is inside ourselves, as well as the source of resources necessary for the change. One of the most famous quotes of Richard Bendler, based on this principle, is. ‘It is never too late for a happy childhood.’

In NLP, the assumption is that we are that crucial element that creates change, not some other factors. We are what makes difference. NLP is constantly helping us remember the resources that are inside of us and offers us models in order to help us reach for these resources. Even if we need something like a lot of money, change and reaching the goal depend solely on us, we are the ones who need to make that money…. Even when we get it from someone else, we are the ones who should take action steps, using our own resources for achieving such goal.

When something doesn’t work – Try something else


How many times were you in a situation when someone says: ‘I told you so!’? If someone repeated the very same sentence numerous times and got the same response every time, the real question is whether he could have done something more useful? If your child avoids brushing teeth in 6 different ways, it is up to you to come up with at least 7 methods for convincing your child that brushing teeth is necessary.

Bendler says that people tend to repeat a certain type of behavior and interventions that had been successfully done in the past, hoping to achieve the same result in the present moment. Success is one of the most dangerous experiences a person can have, especially if success is achieved at the very beginning of a career. In such situations, people often tend to repeat the same activities, believing that those exact activities would bring new success even in different circumstances.

In relation to that, a slightly different version of the same NLP principle says: The element with the highest flexibility in a certain system will be capable of controlling that system.’ (This sentence presents a slightly modified Law of Requisite Variety, already existing in Cybernetics, and the elements of the system in question could be the people, as well as other living beings, even non-living things.

Kelly says that the science, in order to achieve further progress, needs to offer different models and constructs of what is being researched, with emphasis on the ones more practical and applicable, and NLP follows this through claim that having useful assumptions and models that insist on applicability rather than accuracy, is what is necessary for progress in life and constant learning. Flexibility is the key element leading to recognized models being tested and accepted, if proven useful.

If something can be done – anyone can learn how to do it


Modelling is the process of acquiring skills. All the skills are systematic, structured, and there are patterns for obtaining them. That is why the skills need to be modelled and multiplied. However, modelling doesn’t mean acquiring the experience of the model as well.

The skills always have a certain structure, even when all looks like magic. NLP deals with creating models of such magic and keeping the most successful ones. A good model is a model through which other people can learn how to do something achieved by the person who is the model. Even Milton Erickson was confused at the beginning, when Bendler and Grinder have started with modelling of his work, but he was thrilled with the results they have achieved through working with others by using his model.

With the first principle mentioned here (Experience has the structure), this principle presents the basis for modelling. All the skills are systematic, structured, and there are patterns for obtaining them. That is why the skills need to be modelled and multiplied. However, modelling doesn’t mean acquiring the experience of the model as well.

There is no failure – There is only a result


Who is able to always achieve his goal? On the other hand, who is always achieving a certain result (either positive or negative)? Perhaps we don’t always achieve what we wanted, but we always achieve some result. How do we feel when we don’t achieve what we have planned? On the contrary, how do we feel when we learn something? Failing or learning…it is up to us to choose the ways we will consider the events around us and by doing so, create the reality we live in. Both positive and negative result will help us be better next time.

It often happens that salesmen give up on some client after trying something for couple times. It is because they don’t have enough experience and they don’t know that establishing trust takes time.

Success is the result of the experience. Experience is the result of repeating and trying over and over. This is something that wouldn’t exist if the success was instant. There can be no success without failure. Since success always comes as the final station on that road, failure is only a result, or a station on our way to success. Results should therefore be considered only as an information helping us to be better next time.

For this principle we can say: There is neither failure nor success, there is only a choice, only flexibility. This is a convenient addition to the principle since success can be dangerous at times. Even when we achieve what we hoped for, life goes on. A goal that is achieved opens the door for other, even bigger goals. However it happens that we let our guard down and miss many other chances. The essence of NLP is choice, the capability of staying flexible.