How to learn NLP

What is the best way to learn NLP?

Learning NLP is very different from school or academic learning.  

Why?  Because NLP is about developing skill rather than merely acquiring information.  It’s about what you can DO rather than what you know.

For many of us, ‘school learning’ sets the standard by which we gauge future learning opportunities.

Yet traditional school learning is a fairly passive process: we absorb information from the teacher and from books and then demonstrate our ability to retain this information by regurgitating it once again at an examination!

Can you learn NLP from books or online courses?

Skill with NLP is quite different to knowledge about NLP.

You could read dozens of books and still not be able to skilfully use NLP. (I know. I tried it for a while once I first came across NLP around 40 years ago).

Let’s say you wish to become a skilful horse rider.

You can read books on horse riding – without ever meeting a horse.  

Stick with this reading for a month or two and you’ll become very knowledgeable…. about horse riding.

In fact, you could probably amass more data about horse-riding than many people who have been riding horses all their lives!

But an hour on a horse and with a skilled riding coach would provide you with more skill in actually riding that all of your reading or online study.

Learn NLP ‘live’ and interactively

NLP is a set of insights and skills with which you can actively use your mind and your emotions and your body to run your own life more successfully – and to communicate with other people with extraordinary effectiveness.

Learning NLP needs to a very active personal and professional development experience in which what you learn is

  1. Explained to you
  2. Explored and practised by you and with others in hands-on practical sessions
  3. Reviewed and discussed with other people to learn from their experience in these practical sessions
  4. Developed through on-going coaching from a professionally trained and Certified NLP Trainer who will enable you to develop your own style of NLP – a style that matches your personality.

And, because you are a thinking and discriminating adult learner, everything needs to be discussed and questioned with the trainer and your fellow learners – rather than passively accepted because it comes from an ‘expert’.

Should I read about NLP?

If you know nothing about NLP reading about it is useful.  And there are lots of online NLP sites, such as this one, which provide free and in-depth information about NLP to enable you to decide if it’s something that will be or interest and of value to you.

If you decide that you’d like to take your NLP journey further it’s time to… stop reading about NLP and start doing NLP by attending a good NLP course. We have 7 tips for selecting an NLP course here.

Many people, myself included, first come across NLP through books.  Yet, nearly half of those who attend our Pegasus NLP courses have never read an NLP book.  That why we recommend a three-stage sequence

  1. Scan a few NLP websites – or perhaps read an NLP book – to get an overall sense of the subject
  2. Attend a workshop to get the hands-on, practical experience
  3. Then do some reading afterwards.  The books will be more valuable and will make a lot more sense after taking part in a live workshop.

What if I cannot attend a live workshop…?

If you do not currently have the opportunity to attend a live training then using books and audio recordings are a good second choice – if you adopt a proactive approach, as follows:


Select books which offer lots of examples and practical exercises since these will keep you actively involved.

Do the practical exercises!

Avoid the temptation to quickly flip through the pages looking for more and more knowledge! Use the examples to engage your imagination and the practical exercises to develop your skills.

And avoid NLP-indigestion!

It’s a great and exciting subject – with an almost unlimited range of applications. So you may be tempted to rush out (or to your keyboard) and buy more and more books. Don’t!

Be thorough

Read a little about an NLP topic. Then try it out in practise. Now go back and re-read it to deepen your grasp.

Stick to two or three pieces until you’ve developed some skill with these.  For example, take a few days to read about and practise Rapport.

Now have a break from Rapport and move on to something else such as Representational Systems.  And then have a few days Anchors. And so on.

Learning NLP on a course

Here in the UK you have a huge, even bewildering, selection of NLP training courses and workshops. This raises the question of what type of training to select.

Here at Pegasus NLP we have explored running them all. And they each have their benefits:

Short introductory workshops

These can be from a few hours to a day or two. They offer lots of topics and give a brief glimpse of the potential and you do not have to commit a lot of time and money.

Their disadvantage is that they may not be very good value for money since they are often marketing events for the more expensive advanced courses. So you get glimpses of tantalising pieces but without time to go into things in depth.

Application workshops

Here you discover NLP through applying simple concepts in a particular area such as managing stress, feeling more confident, or communicating more effectively. They can be excellent and provide you with some specific tools to begin applying right away.

One down-side is that they have to be quite technique-oriented to achieve the advertised result but many of the more sophisticated NLP techniques only work really well if you have in-depth training in the core essentials such as sensory acuity, calibration, rapport, etc.

But they can work really well – especially if you have already had at least some grounding in the core techniques.

Longer introductory workshops

In the early 1990’s we experimented with running short introductory courses of two days.

Then in 1998 we decided to instead provide a more thorough immersion in the essentials of NLP.  We called this programme NLP Core Skills and we have been running it a number of times a year since them.  

In NLP Core Skills training you experience 4 days of thorough, fun-filled, hands-on training and coaching in the essentials of NLP as well as some of the more sophisticated techniques.

Importantly, you do not have to commit yourself… because we offer a full money-back guarantee.

This means that if the training is not right for you you get a full no-questions-asked refund – and you have until the end of the second day of the course to make up your mind!  You can read what participants have said here.

The Pegasus NLP Newsletter

Most articles on this site originally appeared in The Pegasus NLP Newsletter – which has been published continuously since January 2001.

You can subscribe to our usually-monthly newsletter here

And there will be no spam – I promise.  You have trusted me with your email address and I will use it for the Newsletter and for nothing else – and it will never be shared with anyone else. Ever.  (Reg Connolly, founder of Pegasus NLP)

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