How does NLP work?

how to shift the reality

In this podcast edition I talk in depth about how NLP works. NLP is primarily a system for understanding how we encode our subjective view of the world. When we encode our subjective view of the world we turn it into a program in our mind. NLP looks at that program and encoding and seeks to change the parts which are less helpful.

Join me as I walk you through some practical exercises  to experience how your encoding works for yourself. I know you will find it enlightening!

Show References:
Noam Chomsky –


In this episode, I want to explain what NLP is and how NLP works. So how NLP works to affect such large changes in people and make such big differences in their lives often very quickly. And by very quickly, I can mean in a matter of minutes sometimes.

NLP is fundamentally a principle and a system for looking at the way you take your subjective view of the world and encode it. Once we understand how you encode the world around you, then we can break encoding down into a program. We can work out the effective parts of that program, and we can work out the non-effective parts or perhaps the unhelpful parts of that program. And then we can recreate that program in a way that serves you better.

So I’m going to give you some examples so you can experience this for yourself. So what I’d like you to do is to think about something good that happened to you in the past. I mean, something really good. It could be a particular birthday celebration. It could be a wedding. It could be a birth of a child. But anything that you would consider to be really, really good. And as you think of that, I would like you to picture it. Create a picture in your mind of that really good, happy, joyous, momentous event. So create that picture.

Now, we’re going to start to break down the program, this encoding that I’ve spoken about. So now I want to ask you is there sound with this picture? And if there isn’t sound, give it some sound. As you look at that picture, are you looking at that picture through your own eyes? Or can you see yourself in that picture? I want you to make sure that you can see through your own eyes, that you are looking through your own eyes.

Now is that picture static or is it moving? Is the picture very clear? Is it very focused and sharp or is it slightly de-focused? Are there any noticeable smells happening around you? So you can see that as we start to play with this picture, we can pick up things that we call submodalities and these submodalities can make a huge difference to the way we store and encode things that have happened to us in our life.

So if I were to say to you, if that picture is moving, make it still and make it silent, and make the picture now small. So move the picture away from yourself so that it seems small. And now see yourself in that picture rather than looking through your own eyes. Now, make that picture black and white.

We can immediately start to feel the way we represent that event in our mind can start to change. And we do this with all things in our brain. Every time we think about perhaps a habit, smoking, drinking, doing things that we enjoy going out, dancing, meeting friends, we have little programs that we run. We have memories that we run and we will encode that memory, and we can change how we feel about it by changing the encoding. And that’s what we call submodalities.

So that’s one way of changing these programs and changing the encoding. We can use NLP and a series of techniques to uncover some of these events that have happened in the past that may be affecting you or things that you view coming up in the future. We can change the way it’s encoded. We can literally change the way you view it in your mind by changing these submodalities. We can even do things like switching out submodalities.

So there’s a great technique called a like to dislike. It takes the submodalities of things that we like, but perhaps we know we shouldn’t eat like chocolate biscuits perhaps. We can change the submodalities of how we represent chocolate biscuits to change everything so that the submodalities are of something that we actually dislike. What that does in our brains is it starts to mess up how we encode eating chocolate biscuits.

And the result of that is when we encode eating chocolate biscuits and mix it up with something that we don’t like, the desire and drive to eat chocolate biscuits disappears. It’s incredible when we start to mess and change the encoding in our brains. We also have another series of this encoding called meta-programs. And meta-programs are little programs that we run all of the time. We have programs for pretty much everything that we do. We have programs for cleaning our teeth in the morning through the program to falling in love, through he programs to buying something.

So let’s just look at this at the moment. Let’s just look at buying something and think about how that gets encoded in our brain because lots of people struggle with continuously buying things they don’t need perhaps, or spending money that they don’t have. And that’s because there will be some unhelpful part of their buying or decision-making process and the way they’ve encoded that.

Let’s just think about buying something of value. So imagine that you’re going to buy something that has quite a bit of value and this could be different for every person. But I want you to think of something that you wouldn’t usually buy that would stretch you. So it’s an item that you wouldn’t buy just without thinking. I want you to think of an item that you’d buy that would actually stretch you financially that you’d really need to be sure that you were going to buy it.

So it could be a new item of clothing. It could be a new fancy watch. It could be a car. It could be anything.

So I want you to think of something that you would like to buy, but that item is going to stretch you so that it’s not just a very quick decision. You’ve really got to think about it. When you’ve got that item, I want you to close your eyes. So now I want to imagine that you have already walked into the shop where this item is located and you see the item there.

I want you to think now, what is the very first thing that causes you to notice that you want to purchase that item? Is it something that you see or something that you hear? And some people, it may just be seeing that item, seeing the item triggers, emotions in them, triggers thoughts in them, or sometimes people can hear. They might hear their own voice in their head. Say, wow, you’d look good in that. They might hear a voice in their head saying, just buy it. They may hear a voice in their head saying, “You would look really good in that.”

And it may not be their own voice. It may be the voice of their partner, of their mother, of their father. Something that they hear in their head. So we will all have an initial trigger that causes us the desire to want to buy something. And that trigger will form part of the program. I would then say, what is the next thing? So when you’ve decided, okay, I’m going to move a bit further forward, what’s the next thing that causes you to notice that you want to purchase this item?

Is it something that you see, something that you hear, or something that you feel? At that point we might say, “Oh yeah, once I see it, or once I hear that voice, I get a feeling. I kind of just know.” Then I would say, “Well, where is that feeling? If it is a feeling, where is that feeling? Is it in your head? Is it in your stomach? Is it lower down? Is it an arm? Is it in a leg? It could be anywhere? Where is that feeling?”

What we’re actually doing here is starting to work out the encoding process. What is the process that we go through when we make this purchase decision? We will all go through our own little process or process will be very different. Sometimes people will see, they will hear, they will feel, but there will be a little process, a little series of encodings that we go through when we make a purchase. Sometimes there is a loop. So sometimes we get a loop in that process where we end up getting looped back to the beginning.

When we get looped back to the beginning, as you could clearly see it, it becomes really difficult to make a decision. We go round and around and around not being able to make a decision. The opposite end of the spectrum, some people’s purchasing program is very, very short and has very few steps in it.

Their program might be, I look at it, I feel that I want it. I buy it. And a person like that may end up purchasing too many things.

So we might want to adjust either of those programs. We might want to adjust the program that has a loop in it to take the loop out. So this person can make a decision better. Or if the decision happens too quickly to buy something of high value, then we might want to look at extending that program to put in some additional checks so that we can prevent this over purchasing, this behavior which is unhelpful. So you can see even making a purchase decision, we have encoded in our brains and all of this is linked to our emotions and the emotions it triggers within us and the memories because the memories that we have again are just encodings.

Noam Chomsky talks in great detail about deletions, distortions and generalizations. And I’ll put a link to him in the comments of this podcast. So deletions, distortions, and generalizations. We delete the world around us. We delete things we don’t need like the sound of a computer buzzing in the background, like the sound of birds tweeting outside, like any other extraneous sounds that are going on around us, that we don’t need to be aware of all of the time, because we’d go into overdrive if we were aware of them all of the time. So we delete things.

We distort things around us. Distortions, deletions, and we generalize as well. We generalize things that people say. We generalize emotions and we generalize if someone says, “I don’t like that.” We generalize it. So why would I think that? I don’t like that means. And we turn their emotions into our emotions by comparing it with ourself.

So we delete, distort, and generalize all of these things around us. So as we creating our memories, our memories become encoded in our brain and actually are not true.

They are just our encoding of what happened. They are not the reality. They are not the truth. All of this encoding, all of these programs, this is what we work on with NLP. This is what we work with a client to identify which programs are helpful, which programs are unhelpful. And then we break that program down and we rebuild it in a helpful manner, which works better for that client.

So that is how NLP works. And all of the NLP techniques and ideas that you see out there, they all work on this basic principle of taking the encoding of the world around us, breaking the encoding down into a series of stages, understanding how we encode, and then re-encode in a more helpful manner.

And as ever, I would absolutely love to hear your feedback.
Thank you for listening. If you have liked what you have heard, please rate and review, and subscribe. If you’d like to ask any questions, please send an email to Or to find out more about the Performance Academy, what we offer with our online verifiable CPD courses, please visit



Post Tagged with
Comments are closed.