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What is NLP? - The Short Answer

NLP - Neuro-Linguistic Programming is an epistemology, how we know what we know and also a methodology, how we do what we do.

The Original Definition: The study of the structure of subjective experience.

An uptodate Definition: "NLP is a meta-discipline which focuses on the discovery and coding of patterns that distinguishes the most capable of the practitioners of some particular discipline (management practice, medical practice, sports, therapy...) from the average practitioner.  These distinguishing patterns are the substance of NLP”. John Grinder

The Descriptions:
Above are the original and the more recent definitions of NLP.  There are many, many descriptions of NLP from the subjective experience of the person doing the describing. 

One popular description comes from co-creator Richard Bandler - "an attitude of curiosity, with a methodology of modelling which leaves behind a trail of techniques." 

Another description comes from the other co-creator of NLP, John Grinder - "an accelerated learning strategy for the detection and utilisation of patterns in the world".

The Magic:
At the time (early 1970's) "the magic" was in noticing that experience had a structure.  Information is taken in from the surroundings by the 5 senses, sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell, to create experience.  By noticing how this is done the structure of an experience can be determined.

The Breakthrough:
This break through led the co-creators to study how those who excel in a particular context, do so.  This is NLP Modelling and some of the first people modelled were the great therapists of the time, Fritz Perls, Virgina Satir and Milton Erickson (other models included Moshé Feldenkrais and Frank Farrelly).

Generative Process Model:
It was discovered that these models of therapy were generative across contexts.  i.e. the first NLP Model called the 'Meta Model' is a way of using language to clarify language.  It worked to draw out the clients experience from their language to become clear about the clients problem in a therapeutic context but can be used to clarify language in the contexts of an every day conversation, relationships, business meetings or corporate negotiation.  This is the power of NLP, the patterns become second nature and naturally generative unconsciously, in whatever context you choose to use them.