How Does NLP Work?

NLP Coaching

Neuro-linguistic programming, commonly known as NLP, is a communication and personal development approach that focuses on the connection between language, behaviour, and the mind. It aims to help individuals identify and change negative patterns of behaviour and thought to achieve their goals. The field of NLP has been around since the 1970s and has evolved into a widely used tool for self-improvement and professional development. This article will give an overview of how NLP works and its key components.

The Key Concepts In NLP

NLP is based on the idea that the mind, language, and behaviour are interlinked and that one can affect the others. It is grounded in the belief that people have the resources within themselves to make positive changes in their lives. The process of NLP involves using specific techniques to identify the root cause of negative patterns of behaviour and thought and then replacing them with positive ones.

One of the primary ways that NLP works is by using language and communication techniques to create change. The approach assumes that our language and the way we use it can influence our thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. By understanding how language works and how to use it effectively, individuals can change their patterns of thought and behaviour.

NLP practitioners use a variety of techniques to achieve this goal, including anchoring, reframing, and rapport building.


Anchoring is a technique that involves associating a specific state or emotion with a physical or sensory cue. In other words, it is a technique that allows individuals to establish a connection between a specific behaviour or state of mind and a particular stimulus, such as a sound, a touch, or a visual cue.

The anchoring process involves creating a specific trigger or stimulus that is associated with a desired emotional state or behaviour. This technique can be used in various contexts, such as in therapy sessions, public speaking, or sports performance. For example, a therapist may use anchoring to help a client access a positive emotional state when recalling a traumatic experience. Similarly, a public speaker may use anchoring to reduce anxiety and boost confidence before a presentation.

The key to successful anchoring in NLP is to create a strong connection between the anchor and the desired emotional state or behaviour. This involves ensuring that the anchor is consistently paired with the desired state, and that the individual is fully present and focused during the anchoring process.


Reframing is another technique which involves looking at a situation or experience in a different way. It aims to change the meaning of a particular experience to make it more positive or helpful. This technique can be particularly helpful in situations where an individual feels stuck or trapped in a negative pattern of behaviour.

The reframing process can be used in various contexts, such as in therapy sessions, personal development, and business coaching. It is often used to help individuals overcome negative thoughts, emotions, and behaviours that are holding them back from achieving their goals.

The NLP reframing technique involves several steps. Firstly, the individual needs to identify the negative belief, emotion or behaviour that they wish to reframe. They then need to examine the situation or event that triggered this response and identify the underlying thought or belief that is causing it.

Next, the individual needs to challenge the negative thought or belief and create a more positive and empowering alternative. This can involve looking for evidence to support the new perspective, or considering the situation from a different angle.

Finally, the individual needs to integrate the new perspective into their beliefs and behaviours by repeating it and reinforcing it over time. This can involve using affirmations, visualisation, and other techniques to help solidify the new belief.

Building Rapport

Building rapport is a critical component of NLP, and it involves establishing a connection with the individual being worked with. This connection helps to build trust and can make it easier to achieve positive outcomes. Practitioners may use a variety of techniques to build rapport, including matching body language, tone of voice, and pacing of speech.

One of the key techniques used is mirroring, which involves matching the other person’s body language, tone of voice, and breathing pattern. By doing this, the other person feels more comfortable and at ease, and a sense of connection and rapport is established.

Another technique used in building rapport in NLP is pacing and leading. This involves initially matching the other person’s communication style and gradually leading them towards a desired outcome or goal. For example, if the other person is speaking in a quiet and reserved tone, the NLP practitioner may initially match this tone and gradually lead them towards a more confident and assertive communication style.

Active listening is also a crucial aspect of building rapport in NLP. This involves being fully present and engaged in the conversation, listening attentively to the other person’s words and non-verbal cues, and responding empathetically and authentically.

Building rapport in NLP can have numerous benefits, such as improving communication, enhancing trust and cooperation, and promoting positive relationships. It can also be used to facilitate behaviour change in therapy sessions, by establishing a sense of trust and understanding with the client and creating a safe and supportive environment for them to explore and overcome their challenges.

The Subconscious Mind

Another essential aspect of NLP is the focus on the subconscious mind.

The subconscious mind refers to a part of the mind that lies beneath the conscious level of awareness. It is a reservoir of thoughts, feelings, memories, and automatic behaviours that are not immediately accessible to conscious awareness, but nonetheless influence our behaviour and experiences.

The subconscious mind is believed to be responsible for many automatic functions of the body, such as breathing, heart rate, and digestion. It is also thought to play a crucial role in shaping our emotions, beliefs, and values, and can influence our perceptions and reactions to events and situations.

One of the key characteristics of the subconscious mind is its ability to process information much faster than the conscious mind. It is estimated that the subconscious mind is able to process up to 11 million bits of information per second, compared to the conscious mind which can only process around 50 bits per second. This means that much of what we experience and respond to is shaped by unconscious processes and beliefs.

The subconscious mind is often likened to an iceberg, with the conscious mind representing the visible tip above the surface, and the subconscious mind representing the vast hidden portion beneath the surface. It is believed that many of the problems and challenges we face in life can be traced back to deeply ingrained beliefs and patterns of thought in the subconscious mind that may not be immediately apparent to us.

In the field of psychology and self-improvement, there are various techniques and approaches that aim to access and influence the subconscious mind, such as hypnosis, meditation, and affirmations. These techniques seek to bypass the conscious mind and communicate directly with the subconscious, in order to create positive changes in beliefs, behaviours, and emotions.

The subconscious mind is believed to be responsible for many of our automatic responses and patterns of behaviour. NLP techniques aim to access the subconscious mind to identify and change negative patterns of thought and behaviour.


One way that NLP practitioners access the subconscious mind is through hypnosis. Hypnosis involves inducing a trance-like state in which the individual is highly suggestible. During this state, practitioners may suggest new ways of thinking or behaviour to the individual, which can then be integrated into their daily life.


Another way that NLP works with the subconscious mind is through visualisation techniques. Visualisation involves creating mental images of a desired outcome or behaviour. By visualising a positive outcome, individuals can begin to re-programme their subconscious mind to focus on positive outcomes rather than negative ones.

Here are two powerful visualisation techniques.

Guided Imagery

This technique involves developing a mental image of a specific scenario or setting, such as a peaceful beach or a calming forest. To practise guided imagery, you can listen to an audio recording or guided meditation that takes you through the visualisation process. You may be asked to imagine yourself walking along a beach, feeling the sand beneath your feet and the sun on your skin, or visualising a peaceful forest where you can hear the birds chirping and the leaves rustling in the wind. This technique is often used to reduce stress, anxiety, and pain.

Future Self-Visualisation

This technique involves visualising yourself in the future as your ideal self, having achieved your goals and living the life you desire. To practise future self-visualisation, you can find a quiet and comfortable space to sit or lie down, and then close your eyes and imagine yourself in the future.

You may visualise yourself as more confident, successful, and fulfilled, and see yourself living the life you have always dreamed of. By imagining this future self, you can gain clarity on your goals and aspirations, and develop a greater sense of motivation and purpose in your daily life. This technique is often used to improve self-esteem, boost motivation, and enhance personal growth.

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a communication and personal development approach that focuses on the connection between language, behaviour, and the mind. NLP works by using language and communication techniques to create change in negative patterns of behaviour and thought.

Techniques include anchoring, reframing, rapport building, hypnosis, visualisation, and goal setting. NLP assumes that language and the way we use it can influence our thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. The approach is founded on the belief that people have the resources within themselves to make positive changes, and it provides individuals with the tools and techniques to achieve these changes. Overall, NLP offers a powerful approach to personal growth and professional development.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main goal of NLP?

The main goal of NLP is to help individuals improve their communication skills and develop greater self-awareness and self-mastery. This is achieved through various techniques and approaches that aim to re-programme the mind and create positive changes in behaviour and thought patterns.

How does NLP approach language and communication?

NLP approaches language and communication as a system of patterns and structures that can be analysed and understood. By identifying and changing these patterns, individuals can improve their communication skills and develop greater rapport and influence with others.

What part does the subconscious mind play in NLP?

The subconscious mind plays a very important role in NLP, as it is believed to hold the key to deep-seated patterns of behaviour and thought. By accessing and influencing the subconscious mind through various techniques, individuals can create positive changes in their beliefs, emotions, and behaviours.

What are some common NLP techniques?

Some common NLP techniques include anchoring, reframing, visualisation, and rapport-building. These techniques aim to create positive changes in communication, behaviour, and thought patterns by re-programming the mind and accessing the subconscious.

How can NLP be applied in different contexts?

NLP can be applied in a wide range of contexts, including personal development, business and leadership, education, and therapy. NLP techniques can be adapted and tailored to suit the specific needs and goals of individuals and organisations.