18 Fundamental Principles of NLP

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In NLP we consider these to be the more important Principles, or Presuppositions, because they shape the attitude with which we use NLP – and they encourage us to use NLP as it was originally designed to be used.

Nowadays NLP is commonly viewed, and enthusiastically marketed, as a haphazard collection of techniques for ‘doing things to people’.

This is quite different to how it was designed. And quite different to how it is used by people who have had a thorough training in NLP such as we provide here at Pegasus NLP.

The Principles are not ‘true’

In NLP we consider these to be working hypotheses rather than truths: we ‘act as if’ the Principles are true – while recognising that there will be many situations in which this will not be the case.

Take, for example, the first principle listed below “take responsibility for how people respond to you’. Taken literally this is a tall order. How can we be responsible for how other people respond to us – they have free will, after all?

But the purpose of this Principle is to encourage us to ACT AS IF we are responsible for how they receive, understand and then respond to our communication and to our behaviour.

We certainly don’t believe it. But acting as if it were true encourages us to continuously vary how we communicate with someone until they get the point – or until we recognise that they are simply not receptive to our message.

Interacting with others

  1. Take responsibility for how others respond to you. (‘The meaning of your communication is the response you get’)
  2. Act as if people have all the mental and emotional resources they need even if they do not currently recognise this.
  3. Discover the other person’s perceptions before you begin to influence them. (‘Meet people in their own unique model of the world’)
  4. Recognise that in any situation a person is making the best choice with the resources which they currently perceive as being available to them.
  5. Recognise that each person’s ‘truth’ is true for them even if it differs from your ‘truth’ – since any person’s internal view of reality is just that – a ‘version’ of reality. (‘The map is not the territory’)
  6. Recognise that people interact with their internal versions of reality rather than with pure, sensory-based, input.

Personal Development & State Management

  1. Enhance your behavioural and attitudinal flexibility. (‘In any interaction the person with the greatest behavioural flexibility has most influence on the outcome’)
  2. Act as if there is a solution to every problem.
  3. Recognise the other person’s Identity or Self Image – by distinguishing between their behaviour and their identity or self image.
  4. Act as if every behaviour is/was a means of fulfilling a positive intention, at some level, in a person’s life.
  5. Redefine mistakes as feedback – and change what you are doing if what you are doing is not working.

General Principles

  1. NLP is a model rather then a theory – and it is the study of subjective experience.
  2. NLP is a generative rather than a repair model – it emphasises finding solutions rather than analysing causes – and in NLP we always add choices, rather than take these away.
  3. Mind and body are part of the one system
  4. All human behaviour has a structure
  5. External behaviour is the result of how a person uses their representational systems.
  6. If one human can do something then, potentially, anyone can.
  7. Conscious mind capacity is very limited – supposedly to around 5-9 chunks of information.

These ‘working principles or presuppositions have been around since the early days of NLP and are a guide on how best to use NLP.

They are pragmatic rather than idealistic or unrealistic and provide excellent guidelines on how best to use NLP with other people.

NLP is a very powerful technology the use of which, if not backed by these guidelines, can quite easily be used to the detriment of others. This is why, in our NLP Practitioner Certification Programme we explore what each principle means in terms of behaviour and attitude.

It’s also why they form a key element in our assessment for certification as a Practitioner of NLP.

We believe that a true Certified Practitioner of NLP will have absorbed the key principles from the above list and that this will be demonstrating in their behaviour at an ‘unconscious competence’ level – so that their behaviour respects the self esteem, values and beliefs of other people.

The Pegasus NLP Newsletter

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

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