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Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)

In the early 1970s, Richard Bandler was a PhD student of John Grinder, in Santa Cruz University. As a part of this work, he studied excellence in communication, and the best source seemed to be psychotherapists, who needed particular care with the words they used. Their sources of inspiration were Fritz Perls (a leading light in the Gestalt movement), Virginia Satir (a highly respected family therapist) and Milton Erikson (who, almost single-handed, legitimized hypnotherapy).

In 1978, they published 'The Structure of Magic' in two books, where 'Magic' was a comment on the remarkable results that the therapists they studied seem to achieve. Since then, and particularly since the '90s, there have been a plethora of books published on the subject.

The only real technique of NLP is 'modeling', which is simply the study of how people who are good at things do what they do. The tricky part of NLP is that it often looks at what goes on inside their heads. The result of this modeling is that it leaves a trail of techniques in its path, often with jargonistic names, such as 'The Meta Model' and 'Transderivational Search'. Many of these names are adopted from original work in therapy and psychology.

The therapeutic origins of NLP are still very evident in the techniques, and much is directed at the same realm, although it often aims for 'brief therapy' where cures are rapid and effective. Nevertheless, with thought, much can be extracted that may be of use in the cut and thrust of persuasion and change in the everyday business environment. 

NLP has a very mixed reputation, ranging from outright denunciation to cult-like adulation. It is not helped by a wide range of people out to sell certification and more to anyone who is prepared to pay the price. As usual, the truth is out there, somewhere in the middle. It contains some very useful stuff that can help communication and understanding, but is not the answer to life, the universe and everything. It's basic tenet is to use what works and never mind the theory. This is also good advice to any students of it: be open-minded, listen, read, practice. And use what works for you. 

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