A potted history of NLP

NLP developed from the study of successful communicators. In the early 1970s three Americans, John Grinder, Frank Pucelik  and Richard Bandler, began studying or ‘modelling’ successful communicators.

They wanted to identify what made particularly effective communicators get the results they achieved.

Grinder was one of the youngest associate professors of linguistics in the US and Bandler was a computer studies student. It was this blend of creative and analytical styles that enabled them to examine human communication with fresh eyes.

How it developed and spread

To date no authoritative history of the early development of NLP exists so there is some disagreement about what exactly occurred and who did what.

It appears that Bandler and Pucelik developed the basics of what was to be called NLP.  Soon they were joined by Grinder and then, in co-operation with, and by practising on, a small group of friends the trio extended and developed the field of study.

Many of those who attended these sessions went on to develop their own ideas and insights which were added to the pool of knowledge that is today called NLP.

International interest

The results of the enthusiastic exploration being carried out by Pucelik, Grinder and Bandler and their co-investigators attracted and inspired others and the new field of Neuro-linguistic Programming grew and spread internationally.

From its California birthplace NLP quickly spread throughout the US and by the early 80’s was being taught and further developed in Europe and Australia.

From therapy to the military

Initially it mainly appealed to therapists and those interested in personal growth. However a number of early enthusiasts spotted its wider application as a method of assessing and improving performance so by the later seventies it had spread beyond the therapeutic world and was being applied in the fields of education, management, sales, sport, music, and even the US military.

The insights and techniques that resulted from these early investigations are continually being developed and today, over 40 years later, the body of material that can loosely be termed NLP is vast. Books about NLP or incorporating NLP ideas certainly can be numbered in hundreds and there are organisations providing NLP workshops and longer trainings throughout the world.

The unique qualities of NLP

So why was NLP so quickly embraced by so many people? Well, for a start it was new, fresh and different from traditional psychology.

Psychologists had been studying performance and communication for years but what was different about the NLP approach was that it emphasised the study of what worked well in order to discover what were the essential ingredients – rather than studying what was not working and then looking for solutions for this.

Additionally NLP was available to everyone – being a behaviourally based process it did not require years of university study and the two core NLP programmes of practitioner and master practitioner could be completed in just a few weeks.

However, the main reason its popularity and for the enthusiasm with which NLP spread, and was assimilated into so many disciplines, is the simple fact that it is remarkable effective. Significant personal and professional changes that might have taken months or years to achieve through traditional methods could be made in just a few hours.

More information about NLP and specialised NLP trainings is available on our NLP site.


There is more information about NLP here


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How to learn NLP

Where to learn NLP – and how to choose a training provider

NLP Core Skills – our course in the New Forest

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What people have said about our courses

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