No Image Available

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Neuro Linguistic Programming


Does NLP really work?
Michael Small

17 Responses

  1. Try archives
    Dear Micheal,

    Perhaps unsurprisingly NLP, its value and benefits have been brought up and discussed many times on this and many other forums. I’d recommend you to browse this and other archives thoroughly and perhaps reformulate more specific questions from there.

  2. Yes

    As a communication model, NLP encompasses many of the aspects of ‘Accelerated Learning’ in its various forms. Keeping learners in an optimal learning state, presenting information using all sensory channels, layering communication with language patterns and using timeline techniques to translate learning to the workplace are all easily achievable with NLP.

    You can also use Well Formed Outcomes to set learning objectives, helping learners to get the most out of the time spent training, and helping you to get the maximum return on your training investment.

    On traditional corporate training courses such as time management or presentation skills, delegates are often ‘sent’ which is a good way to tell them that they’re bad at whatever the course is about. The trainer will be lucky if those people are in a receptive learning state for 10% of the time, so it’s no surprise that many trainers say “if you learn just one thing today then I’ve done a good job”.

    As humans, learning is the thing we do best. Some corporate training managers seem to think that people don’t want to learn and that new information must be force fed. The reality is Using NLP in training makes it a more useful, rewarding and engaging activity for everyone.

    NLP for trainers equips you to deliver measurable results, such as increased revenue, an improved bottom line, or a more highly motivated and productive workforce. You will also develop an extraordinary ability to understand, motivate, and influence others. And you will feel a great sense of personal satisfaction from making valuable contributions at work.

    I would thoroughly recommend getting hold of “NLP – Skills for Learning: A practical handbook for increasing learning potential” by Peter Freeth,
    ISBN 0-954-57480-X.

    If you’re an experienced trainer or presenter and you want to find out, easily, how NLP can help you to transform your skills then this book is for you. Other books aimed at trainers are just an introduction to NLP rehashed with some training examples. This book is written from the outset to both teach and demonstrate the application of NLP as a learning tool. There are ready made exercises for you and many ideas and applications that you can use right away. Of course, this book also makes an ideal introduction to NLP for any reader. It costs £19.99 and is available from You can get it in paperback, ebook, MS Reader or Adbobe Acrobat formats, which is about as flexible as it gets.


  3. Web Sites With A Negative View of Aspects of NLP
    (Bottom of Page)
    (Top of Page)

    And here is the only lucid argument I have ever encountered which explores the problems of analysing NLP in any scientific sense – completely over looks the flaws in their own propositions but never the less interesting:

  4. Yes NLP works
    Hi Michael,

    I think NLP offers a set of principles, a tool kit, and like all tools you have to learn how to use them before they become of real value. About 8 years ago I received training in the principles of NLP through Sue Knight Associates. Even today, I am still learning and finding new applications for those principles. It is undoubtedly the best investment I ever made.

    I meet many people who have perhaps read a book on NLP or attended a course and think that they know everything there is to know about NLP. It takes time and effort to embrace the principles and reap the full benefits. It’s not a “quick fix”, and it won’t suit everyone.

    Yes, NLP can work, and if you are prepared to take the time to understand it, you will be continually rewarded.

    Some books that I found useful and would recommend are:

    Principles of NLP by Joseph O’Connor & Ian McDermott,
    ISBN 0-7225-3195-8 (about £7)
    Introducing NLP by Joseph O’Connor & John Seymour,
    ISBN 1-85538-344-6 (about £13)
    NLP at Work by Sue Knight,
    ISBN 1-85788-302-0 (about £15)



  5. NLP – a way of life
    I agree with John, NLP is not a quick fix. I am a Master Practitioner (SNLP) of it and use it professionally. But, most importantly, I not only talk the talk, I walk the walk as well. Only if one can do that, one can experience the enormous benefits NLP presents.

  6. Yes, No and Maybe

    What do you actually mean, or more precisely, what do you THINK you mean by your question?

    NLP is nothing more than the process of “modelling” someone’s behaviour. Is it possible to model someone’s behaviour? Yes. So NLP works.

    But I suspect that you actual meant “do the various techniques thrown up by NLP work?”

    The answer now is much diifferent, and comes in two very distinct parts.

    First, ever NLP technique has fouind a place in what we might call the “NLP Toolkit” because it HAS worked for someone at some time. So “yes”, all of the techniques HAVE worked, at some time or other, some where or other, for someone or other.

    Secondly, do ALL NLP techniques ALWAYS work, for EVERYONE, ALL of the time? Categorically NOT. There is NO form of psychology in use today which can claim such a perfect record. And anyone who tells you that NLP is flawless is quite frankly out of their tree.

    And that, thirdly, is why previous answers have emphasised the need to learn not only what the NLP techniques are, but also HOW to and WHEN to and WHERE to and WHO to apply any given technique.

    By the way, if you want a concise by fairly comprehensive introduction to the use of NLP in a business context I’d recommend “Develop Your NLP Skills”. It’s by the chap who runs the website Garry Platt mentions at the bottom of his reply to your question.

  7. Yes and it is important to make up your own mind.
    Michael, good question. In answer to its effectiveness in regard to training – that depends on the training. Asking how NLP is utilised within a particular training and of course what the outcome for the training is in terms of all the people concerned ie trainer, trainees and training sponsor.

    And to understand the answer it is important to completely understand the tenants of NLP of which perhpas the most important one may be regarded as “I am in charge of my mind and therefore the results I get”. This translated into training terms means that whoever, and whatever the training on offer, the responsibility for the results of the individuals on that training is theirs. NLP does provide skills, and a tool kit to address the differing requirements of learning that individuals have and will certainly allow more flexibility for communicating in the different ways that individuals may require. And of course it is a brilliant modeling tool.

    The bottom line in answer to your question is – the best way to find out and answer the question to your own satisfaction is to come on an NLP training yourself and find out exactly what it is all about and ensure that any NLP training you organise takes into account the culture and background of your particular organisation. If you wish to discuss the issue further then please contact me and I will gladly spend time talking to you around this particular subject.

  8. NLP and its application in training
    Michael – NLP is helpful in a number of training situations. At a basic level NLP helps people build their skills to communicate effectively. This means that NLP can be used to help people develop in the areas of coaching, facilitation skills, sales training, customer service training, presentations skills & general communications etc. At a more advanced level, NLP is about change and choice. This makes it applicable to support cultural change programmes, stress management and business strategy development – to give just 3 examples. At the end of the day it is the skill of the practitioner that counts. In skilled hands it can be very effective.
    If you want to discuss NLP and its applications in more detail please contact me at I am a trainer of NLP and use it extensively in business.

  9. Making NLP work
    “As you sew so shall you reap” . This is as true of NLP as anything else life offers.

    Does NLP work? NLP only works if you put in the work to make it work. The more you work at making it work, the more it will work. It only works if you are clear and focused on your objectives and focus on your focus. The harder you are prepared to work with the NLP toolkit the better your results will be, ie the closer you will be to the outcomes that you want to achieve. Like any other system it is contingent upon input to achieve output and hence results. Intermittent work is likely to yield low output and results.

    As applied to me, I have found NLP coaching has transformed my life, outlook, philosophy health, fitness, attitudes, beliefs. It has always been hard work. I find a really great thing about NLP as a method of transformation is that, however touchy the issue, the process of resolution is always fun. I was also totally committed to my objectives and my NLP coaches have always been committed to helping me because of my commitment to work for my self.
    Wendy Stern

  10. NLP and e-learning
    What principles of NLP do people think work in the context of current definitions of e-learning? Any ideas?

  11. That depends…..!
    Hello Michael –

    I had been working in T&D for many years before I encountered NLP and now, as a Master Practitioner and Certified Trainer of NLP, I am so glad that I know about it. I think that it adds immeasurably to my ‘toolkit’ – but it is not the only thing in it! In my opinion, the skills are very useful for training and invaluable for coaching and mentoring.

    The field of NLP provides a range of tools and techniques which can be extremely effective – but only if used (i.e. action is taken – they don’t work on their own!) and demonstrated properly.

    I can quite understand why NLP generates such strong feelings both for and against – and is certainly, in some quarters, made to appear far more complicated than it needs to be.

    If you are interested in some reading, I recommend ‘Introducing Neuro-Linguistic Programming’ by Joseph O’ Connor and John Seymour as a very good place to start!

    with best wishes

    Andie Hemming

  12. NLP works – to mislead unsuspecting people
    You cannot neurolinguistically program people. Its as simple as that.

    Some neurolinguistic programming training courses include simple goal setting and positive self talk. Those things work to some degree. However, neurolinguistic programming is so full of things that have failed testing and is so replete with exaggerations that it becomes the most fraudulent and misleading subject in the quackery gutter.

    NLP has now been rated by a sample of over 100 experts and professors, most of whom teach at university level. The results show a very strong level of discredit. They rated neurolinguistic programming as more discredited than equine therapy, and much more discredited than thought field therapy (TFT).

    In one category it is rated as among the top ten most discredited interventions.

    The research always indicated that neurolinguistic programming is as pseudoscientific as it sounds, and it failed a battery of tests back in the 1980s.

    Its not surprising that now, neurolinguistic programming is being used as an archetypal example of pseudoscience, to help undergrad psychology students understand the difference between science and quackery.

    The research speaks for itself.

    Norcross, JC, Garofalo.A, Koocher.G. (2006) Discredited Psychological Treatments and Tests; A Delphi Poll. Professional Psychology; Research and Practice. vol37. No 5. 515-522

    Singer, Margaret & Janja Lalich (1996) Crazy Therapies : What Are They? Do They Work? Jossey-Bass (September 27, 1996)

    Grant J. Devilly (2005) Power Therapies and possible threats to the science of psychology and psychiatry Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry Vol.39 p.437

    Sharpley C.F. (1987). “Research Findings on Neuro-linguistic Programming: Non supportive Data or an Untestable Theory”. Communication and Cognition Journal of Counseling Psychology, 1987 Vol. 34, No. 1: 103-107,105

  13. More information


    Apologies for this belated contribution: I’ve just been too busy to keep up with TrainingZone.

    Adding to Garry’s list, above, here are a few more links: 

    A fairly protracted TrainingZone debate on NLP can be found at:

    The following paper, Neuro-linguistic programming: Cargo cult psychology? appeared in July 2009.

    (Andy Bradbury responds to "cargo-cult criticism" at: )

    A very short biography of "Dr" Richard Bandler, one of the co-founders of NLP, can be found at:

    The Mother Jones article to which the site at the above link refers appears to come and go from various locations, but a copy can currently be found here:

    or, for a text-only version, see: 

    (A Guardian article on "Dr" Bandler can be found at:  


  14. Yes it works if you’re open to it

    If you go into it with an open mind and want to learn then YES it works. If you go with a closed mind then as NLP teaches the mind is the strongest tool you have – you will have closed it off to NLP.


    Accountants for Contractors

  15. Scientific Research on “NLP”?

    Firstly, thank you for the links, Garry and Johann.

    I am a little puzzled by Garry’s comment, however, since he accuses me of not noticing the flaws – but gives no indication what those flaws may be.

    Carl Thorn, on the other hand writes:

    "The research speaks for itself."

    And I totally agree.

    Unfortunately the author of this Knol has not only admitted that his work is mere cut and paste, but more recently he has acknowledge that he is indeed a sock puppet – i.e. someone posting on the Internet but concealing his real identity behind an alias.

    The article itself is largely a copy of the old Wikipedia page that existed at the time when "Headley Down" (an alias) and his 14 sock puppets were preventing almost any kind of accurate reporting of facts.

    > Norcross, JC, Garofalo.A, Koocher.G. (2006) Discredited Psychological Treatments and Tests; A Delphi Poll. Professional Psychology; Research and Practice. vol37. No 5. 515-522

    This "poll" is totally invalid as far as the FoNLP is concerned, as is a second poll reported online in 2010, because in both cases the authors fail to give any details of the "treatments" they are asking respondents to rate other than a name.  This turns out to be a somewhat fatal oversight in the case of the alleged "NLP treatments" since neither of them actually exist, by the names in the polls or any others!

    Nonetheless, some 67 professional psychologists in the 2006 poll, and 32 similar "experts" in the 2010 poll, managed to give the non-existent "NLP treatments" credibility ratings – thus destroying their own!


    > Singer, Margaret & Janja Lalich (1996) Crazy Therapies : What Are They? Do They Work? Jossey-Bass (September 27, 1996)

    Singer, a retired professor of clinical psychology devoted approx. seven pages to "NLP", which she failed to describe with any degree of accuracy.  Her quotes were all, bar one, from non-authoritative sources, and her examples – in a book which features a variety of genuine horror stories about activities condoned by professional psychologists and psychiatrists – presented nothing more crazy than two self-styled "NLP therapists" (there is no such thing) who irritated a couple of clients by their not very skilful use of the "meta model" questioning technique! 


    > Grant J. Devilly (2005) Power Therapies and possible threats to the science of psychology and psychiatry Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry Vol.39 p.437

    Professor Devilly actually gives just 12 lines (on a double column page layout) to a VERY brief description of a single NLP-related technique – and even that came from an inaccurate, non-authoritative source.


    Sharpley C.F. (1987). "Research Findings on Neuro-linguistic Programming: Non supportive Data or an Untestable Theory". Communication and Cognition Journal of Counseling Psychology, 1987 Vol. 34, No. 1: 103-107,105

    Sharpley has actually written two reviews of what purports to be research on "NLP", one in 1984 and one in 1987.  Since then his work has been repeatedly cited as authoritative although almost every point made by Sharpley and the researchers whose work he was reviewing was based on errors, misinterpretations and pure fantasy.

    For example, Sharpley insisted that (unidentified) NLPers had said that someone’s "preferred representational system" could be identified three ways – by watching their eye movements, by listening to their use of sensory predicates (words that related to one or other of the five senses: "I hear what you’re saying", "I see what you mean", etc.) or by the notoriously unreliable technique known as "self-reporting".

    In fact almost all of the so-called "research on NLP" has been on these PRSs and the related "predicate matching" technique, and a great many of the projects have related specifically to comparisons of the results of using the three forms of determining a person’s PRS.

    But here’s the rub:

    NOWHERE does anyone, researcher or reviewer, provide a simple quote from either Bandler or Grinder which even suggests that there are THREE ways of determining a person’s PRS.  Worse yet, everyone IGNORES the very straightforward statement in two of Bandler and Grinder’s books – The Structure of Magic II (1975, page 9) and Frogs into Princes (1979, page 28) where they unambiguously state that the ONE way to discover a person’s PRS is by listening to their use of sensory predicates.

    It ain’t rocket science, yet you’d be hard pressed to find an academic who has grasped this simple fact.  So much for the so-called "scientific" investigations and rebuttals of "NLP".



    (Incidentally, the recent article by Tomasz Witkowski reported on by Donald Clark turns out to be naught but a poor review of Sharpley and Heap’s articles published in the 1980s, with references to a small number of additional/later articles iof a similar nature.  It contains many of the original mistakes, and adds a few of it’s own.


    All in all, it would be really useful if, instead of merely recycling the same material, the would-be critics of whatever they think of as "NLP" were to get a good (accurate) understanding of the subject.  That’s both the critics here and the academics – whose various blunders are evaluated here:

    and here and it’s linked evaluative articles

    BTW, the current issue of Scientific American MIND (Jan/Feb 2011) has an article which reports on research that supports three NLP-related concepts/techniques.

    I shall be gathering this and other examples of supportive evidence in a new FAQ on my website in the near future, to provide an alternative to shooting critics in a barrel.  It will then be up to the critics to come up with some genuine evidence to support their claims instead of just listing various URLs of sites that merely recycle the mistakes of the 1980s.

    Be well

    Andy B

    Honest Abe’s NLP Emporium

  16. NLP more widely used as an example of pseudo-science for improvi

     For anybody aware of proponent-based arguments, the cherry-pick/confirmation bias method is all too obvious.   However, for those unaware of 20th century neuro-mythologies, from the communication technologies of dianetics and scientology, to the psychotechnologies of Erhard Seminars Training/Landmark Forum, the pattern is useful to know.

    Here are some key principles:

    Create Phantoms:

    Make wild/exciting/unverifiable/vague claim:  e.g Overcome mental blocks, learn to program your and other minds (dianetics/NLP/EST/Spiral Dynamics etc).

    Set a rationalization trap

    This is clear from the proponents who bought into the subject, taught or wrote books on its high falluting but ultimately banal nonsense, who still push the religion despite proponents’ utterly terrible behaviour after failing to deliver on the claims.

    Manufacture source credibility

    E,g, write a collection of resentful proponent-biased reviews or critiques of reviews to create a pseudo-intellectual façade.

    Establish a Granfalloon

    NLP is as much a proud and meaningless group as you are likely to get in the new age movement.  Look at any NLP newsgroup and there will be discussions on all the mind-traps, from left right brain balancing to cheap brain-training machines to eye accessing cues.  Those in NLP circles who diss such ideas will still push new age myths such as “NLP is not a science, it’s a technology, or an art, or a pragmatic discipline” etc.  Its not peer critique, its just varying levels of confirmation bias dependent on where they place themselves on the magick-biz continuum.

    Self generated persuasion

    Much of NLP in practice is about selling NLP or attaining meaningless NLP certifications. 

    Construct vivid appeals

    NLP is highly vivid/visual, from eye accessing, to body language, to mirroring.  NLPers even try to promote using Derren Brown videos, claiming he is using specific NLP techniques.  Any savvy magician will tell you if you think DB is using a particular type of hand waving to do his trick, he is actually using something totally else (e.g magic tricks).

    Use pre-persuasion

    e.g. framing the issue as “the research is open to interpretation” (pushing new age relativism) rather than “all the independent reviews show failure” (empirical and reality based findings)

    Frequently used heuristics

    E.g. the message length heuristic:

    Attack opponents through innuendo etc

    Invoking conspiracy theories about people such as “Headleydown” as above and

    NLP is now used as an example of pseudo-science more than ever before

    Neuro-linguistic programming:  The best example of pseudo-scientific promotion in the training and self-development fields.  With EST and dianetics as its historical pre-cursors, it is great for impressing the impressionable, and offering yet another lesson in pseudo-science to the wary.



  17. Way past it.

    NLP sounds quite dubious at first glance, just from the promises made


    But the real proof is in the inconsistencies of the main authors

    Bandler makes very bold claims to neuroscience

    Then just a minute later he slams statistics, which are the mainstay of neuroscience


    Here’s what the interviewer could have said:  "So Richard, do you think your claims to neuroscience only have to be true a percentage of the time?"


    To put it mildly:  NLP is fishy.  

    And way past its sell by date.

No Image Available

Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!