NLP GLOSSARY AAccessing Cues

Subtle behaviours that will both help to trigger and indicate which representational system a person is using to think with. Typical types of accessing cues include eye movements, voice tone, tempo, body posture, gestures, and breathing patterns. People also use accessing cues to “read” another person’s behaviours. We can use this information to develop rapport by matching the person’s behaviour.


The need of human beings to affiliate with each other. One of the Meta Programs which indicates whether a person prefer to work alone or with a team.


The use of language, which is vague, or ambiguous. Language that is ambiguous is also abstract (as opposed to specific). Ambiguous language can be used in therapy as a form of mild hypnosis (or in hypnotherapy per se), during the sales or meeting processes to make your ideas more easily understood


Having shades of meaning, as opposed to Digital, which has discrete (On/off) meaning. As in an analogue watch (a watch with minute and hour hands).


The process of associating an internal response with some external trigger (similar to classical conditioning) so that the response may be quickly, and sometimes covertly, re-accessed. Anchoring can be visual (as with specific hand gestures), auditory (by using specific words and voice tone), and kinaesthetic (as when touching an arm or laying a hand on someone’s shoulder.) Criteria for anchoring: a) intensity or purity of experience; b) timing; at peak of experience; c) accuracy of replication of anchor.


As in a memory, looking through your own eyes, hearing what you heard, and feeling the feelings as if you were actually there. This is called the associated state.


A collection of values and beliefs around a certain subject.


Relating to hearing or the sense of hearing.

Away From

A meta-program – when a person’s preference is to move in the opposite direction from what they want. “I don’t want a 9 to 5 job.”

B NLP GlossaryBehaviour

The specific physical actions and reactions through which we interact with the people and environment around us.

Behavioural Flexibility

The ability to vary one’s own behaviour in order to elicit or secure a response from another person. Behavioural Flexibility can refer to the development of an entire range of responses to any given stimulus as opposed to having habitual, and therefore limiting, responses which would inhibit performance potential.


The generalisations we make about ourselves, others and the world and our operating principles in it. Beliefs act as self-fulfilling prophecies that influence all our behaviours.

Richard Bandler and John Grinder: Behaviour is organised around beliefs. As long as you can fit a behaviour into someone’s belief system, you can get him to do anything, or stop him from doing anything. A belief tends to be much more universal and categorical than an understanding. When you already have a belief there’s no room for a new one unless you weaken the old belief first.

Break State

When someone ‘breaks state’, they are suddenly interrupting their current state, and moving into a different one. Typically, a break state is used to pull someone out of an un-resourceful state into a neutral one, so that they are more easily able to do what is required to achieve their outcome.

C NLP Glossary Calibration

The process of learning to read another person’s unconscious, non-verbal responses in an ongoing interaction by pairing observable behavioural cues with a specific internal response. A very important first step in most NLP processes, you calibrate the problem state. That is, how is your client’s body posture, where does the eyes go, how is the breathing, skin colour, voice tone etc. Knowing how the problem state looks like you have a reference point for measuring the success of your intervention.


Mastery over an entire group of behaviours. Capabilities form the development of a mental map allowing us to select and organise groups of individual behaviours. In NLP these mental maps take the form of cognitive strategies and Meta-Programs


Organising or breaking down some experience into bigger or smaller pieces. Chunking up involves moving to a larger, more abstract level of information. Chunking down involves moving to a more specific and concrete level of information. Chunking laterally involves finding other examples at the same level of information.


When all of a person’s internal beliefs, strategies, and behaviours are fully in agreement and oriented toward securing a desired outcome. Words, voice and body language – give the same message.

Conscious Incompetence

The second stage of the learning cycle in which conscious attention is on the task and the results are variable. This is the stage when the learning rate is the greatest.

Conscious Competence

The third stage of the learning cycle in which full conscious attention is still to carry out an activity. The skill is not yet fully integrated and habitual

Cross Over Mirroring/Matching

Matching a person’s body language with a different type of movement, e.g. tapping your foot in time to their speech rhythm.

D NLP GlossayDeep Structure

The sensory maps (both conscious and unconscious) that people use to organise and guide their behaviour.


One of the three universals of human modelling. The process by which selected portions of the world are excluded from the representation created by the person modelling. Within language systems, deletion is a transformational process in which portions of the Deep Structure are removed and, therefore, do not appear in the Surface Structure representation.

Desired Outcome

This is the end-result or goal that the person is trying to bring about at any particular time. It could be a large, long-range goal (“rule the world”), or a smaller, short-term one (“have a 5 minute relaxing break”).


Having a discrete (on / off) meaning, as opposed to Analogue which has shades of meaning.


As in a memory, for example, looking at your body in the picture from the outside, so that you do not have the feelings you would have if you were actually there.


One of the three universals of human modelling; the process by which the relationships which hold among the parts of the model are represented differently from the relationships which they are supposed to represent. One of the most common examples of distortion in modelling is the representation of a process by an event. Within language systems, this is called normalisation.

Dovetailing Outcomes

The process of fitting together different outcomes, optimising solutions. The basis of win- win negotiations.


As in having all sensory input channels turned inward so that there are no chunks of attention available for outward attention.

E NLP GlossayEcology

The study of the consequences and effects of individual actions on the larger system. In an individual, the study of the consequences and effects of individual components of changework on the bigger picture of the whole individual. In all NLP processes an ecology check is incorporated assuring harmony.


The act of discovery and detection of certain internal processes.


The study of how we know what we know.

Eye Accessing Cues

Movements of the eyes in certain directions which indicate visual, auditory or kinaesthetic thinking. Please note individual variance and that information readily available is not accessed and thus no detectable eye movement.

F NLP Glossary Frame

Set a context or way of perceiving something as in Outcome Frame, Rapport Frame, Backtrack Frame, Out Frame, etc.

Future Pacing

The process of mentally rehearsing and anchoring changes in oneself in a future situation in order to help ensure that the desired behaviour will occur naturally and automatically.

G NLP GlossaryGeneralization

One of the three universals of human modelling; the process by which a specific experience comes to represent the entire category of which it is a member.


A collection of memories, where the memories are linked together or grouped together around a certain subject.


Relating to the sense of taste.

H NLP Glossary


An organisation of things or ideas where the more important ideas are given a ranking based upon their importance.

I NLP GlossaryIdentity

Our sense of who we are. Our sense of identity organises our beliefs, capabilities, and behaviours into a single system.


A smoke screen. When a person draws a blank or gets confused as you are working on an issue with them.


State of having reservations, not totally committed to an outcome, the internal conflict will be expressed in the person’s behaviour.


The process of facilitating the acquisition of a new strategy or behaviour. A new strategy may be installed through any of the NLP? skills or techniques and/or combination thereof (eg. anchoring, accessing cues, metaphor, and future pacing.).


The purpose or desired outcome of any behaviour.


Sub-conscious rules that control behaviour.


Consistent judgements made by people (typically, without an explanation of how these judgements are made). Within language systems, the ability of native speakers of a language to make consistent judgements about the sentences of their language; for example, their ability to decide which sentence of words in their language are well-formed.

Internal Representation

Patterns of information we create and store in our minds in combinations of images, sounds, feelings, smells and tastes. The way we store and encode our memories.

K NLP Glossary Kinaesthetic

Relating to body sensations. In NLP? the term kinaesthetic is used to encompass all kinds of feelings including tactile, visceral, and emotional.

L NLP Glossary Leading

Changing your own behaviours with enough rapport for the other person to follow. Pacing and leading is an important part of NLP. You should enter the client’s world, and lead him to reach the appropriate conclusions himself for achieving the changes desired.

Lead System

The preferred representational system (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic) that finds information to input into consciousness.


The process of getting knowledge, skills, experience or values by study, experience or training.

Learning Cycle

Stages of learning to build habitual skills –

1. Unconscious in Competence
2. Conscious Incompetence
3. Conscious Competence
4. Unconscious Competence

Learning Strategies

Sequences of images, sounds and feelings that lead to learning.

Learning Styles

Different preferred ways of learning. There are many different models, including different senses, meta programs or concept-structure-use. Some prefer to see things, others learn best if they read, and some learn best if they hear someone talk about the material.

Logical Levels

An internal hierarchy in which each level is progressively more psychologically encompassing and impactful. In order of importance (from high to low) these levels include:

(1) spiritual,
(2) identity,
(3) beliefs and values,
(4) capabilities,
(5) behaviour, and
(6) environment.


The inappropriate, usually compulsive repetition of a unit of behaviour.

M NLP Glossary Map of Reality

(Model of the World) Each person’s unique representation of the world built from his or her individual perceptions and experiences.


Adopting parts of another person’s behaviour for the purpose of enhancing rapport.


Derived from Greek, meaning over or beyond.


Knowing about knowing: having a skill, and the knowledge about it to explain how you do it.

Meta Message

A message about a message. Your non-verbal behaviour is constantly giving people meta messages about you and the information you are providing.

Meta message is higher level messages about:

1 The type of message being sent.
2 The state/status of the messenger.
3 The state/status of the receiver.
4 The context in which the message is being sent.

Meta Model?

A model developed by John Grinder and Richard Bandler that identifies categories of language patterns that can be problematic or ambiguous.

Meta Program

A level of mental programming that determines how we sort, orient to, and chunk our experiences. A process by which one sorts through multiple generalisations simultaneously as such Meta Programs control how and when a person will engage in any set of strategies in a given context.

Meta Position

The process of separating yourself from a system in order to gain information. The Fly on the Wall?


The process of thinking about one situation or phenomenon as something else, i.e. stories, parables, and analogies. Metaphors are often used to complement the changes that a person is going through during personal development. A metaphor can also make an idea more easily understood.

Milton Model

The inverse of the Meta Model, using artfully vague language patterns to pace another person’s experience and access unconscious resources. Based on the language used by Milton H. Erickson M.D.

Mind Reading

In NLP terms, this refers not to the idea of telepathy, but to the assumptions that one sometimes makes about other people’s thoughts or opinions, without the other person specifying it. Typically, an individual might say “I know my boss doesn’t like me, because…”


Matching portions of another person’s behaviour in order to gain rapport. It is an effect that occurs naturally in everyday communication and can be used to increase the level of rapport felt between people.


Adopting different patterns of behaviour to another person, breaking rapport for the purpose of redirecting, interrupting or terminating a meeting or conversation.

Modal Operator

This is a term from the Net-Model, which refers to those words (in English) that speak of possibility or necessity, eg. can, should, would, will and their negatives.


A practical description of how something works, whose purpose is to be useful.

Model of the World

A person’s internal representation about the condition of the world.


The act of creating a calculus which describes a given system. The process of observing and mapping the successful behaviours of other people. In NLP this involves profiling behaviours/physiology, beliefs and values, internal states and strategies

Multiple Description

The process of describing the same thing from different viewpoints.

N NLP GlossaryNeuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)

The study of the structure of subjective experience and what can be calculated from that.

A behavioural model and set of explicit skills and techniques founded by John grinder and Richard Bandler in 1975. Defined as the study of the structure of subjective experience. NLP studies the patterns or “programming” created by the interactions among the brain (neuro), language (linguistic), and the body that produce both effective and ineffective behaviour. The skills and techniques were derived by observing the patterns of excellence in experts from diverse fields of professional communication, including psychotherapy, business, hypnosis, law, and education.

Neuro-Logical Levels

This is a model put forward by Robert Dilts for organising the elements that make up human psychology. It is hierarchical in nature, where each level encompasses the lower, and has more impact and influence on our ‘personality’. The levels are (from highest to lowest): mission, identity, beliefs, capabilities, behaviours, and environment


Without words. Usually referring to the analogue portion of our behaviour such as tone of voice or other external behaviour.

o NLP GlossaryOlfactory

Relating to smell or the sense of smell.

Open Frame

An opportunity for anyone to raise any comments or questions about the material that interests them


Goals or desired states that a person or organisation aspires to achieve.

Out Framing

Setting a frame that excludes possible objections. “I will answer any question, except questions about the seating arrangements.” This is a very important concept in meetings and presentations.


Using one representational system to gain access to another, for example, picturing a scene and then hearing the sounds in it.

P NLP GlossaryPacing

A method used by communicators to quickly establish rapport by matching certain aspects of their behaviour to those of the person with whom they are communicating – matching or mirroring of behaviour.

Perceptual Filters

The unique ideas, experiences, beliefs and language that shape our model of the world.

Perceptual Position

A particular perspective or point of view. In NLP there are three basic positions one can take in perceiving a particular experience. First position involves experiencing something through our own eyes associated in a first person point of view. Second position involves experiencing something as if we were in another person’s shoes. Third position involves standing back and perceiving the relationship between out selves and others from a dissociated perspective. Along with the idea of perceptual positions is the idea that we learn more when we are able to consider the same situation from different positions.


To do with the physical part of a person.


The mind compares sensory information to stored models or ideas of how reality has been previously experienced and organised. Upon receiving a sensory impression the mind matches the impression to the stored images. If the individual initially notices the aspects that match the image, this is called a positive responder. If the person notices the mismatch initially, this is called a negative or polarity response. (There is also the possibility of a neutral response if the stimulus has no kinaesthetic value to the person.) Polarity responders tend to be called reactive, argumentative, or negative personalities if the predominant pattern is to initially notice what is wrong in comparison to their ideal images. These three patterns are learned and can be changed from any one of the three to another mode according to the desired effect.


Process words (like verbs, adverbs, and adjectives) that a person selects to describe a subject. Predicates are used in NLP? to identify which representational system a person is using to process information (eg.I see what you mean?, That rings a bell?).

Preferred (Primary) System

The representational system that an individual typically uses most to think consciously and organise his or her experience.


A basic underlying assumption which is necessary for a representation to make sense. Within language systems, a sentence which must be true for some other sentence to make sense. Mastery of presuppositions is one of the keys to NLP excellence.

Process and Content

Content is what is done, whereas process is about how it is done. What you say is content and how you say it is process. For example the Swish Pattern works with smoking, over-eating, nail-biting, and a host of other habits, because it works not with the behaviour itself but with the way in which an individual is compelled to do the behaviour.


The presence of trust, harmony, and co-operation in a relationship. A relationship or state of having trust and mutual responsiveness with others. Rapport happens naturally, and one of the benefits of NLP is learning how to develop it with consciousness and deliberation, quickly and easily. Breaking rapport can also b useful in some circumstances. Rapport can be easily seen when two people?s behaviours match each other ? this is often accompanied by an internal sense of mutual liking and sympathy/understanding.


A process used in NLP through which a problematic behaviour is separated from the positive intention of the internal program or “part” that is responsible for the behaviour. New choices or behaviour are established that satisfy the same positive intention but don’t have the problematic by-products

Representational Systems

The five senses: seeing, hearing, touching (feeling), smelling and tasting.

Representational System Primacy

The systematic use of one sense over the others to process and organise in a given context. Primary representational system will determine many personality traits as well as learning capabilities.

Requisite Variety

Flexibility of thought and behaviour. Can make changes on the way to an outcome / goal. This term originates from the Law of Requisite Variety, which originated in cybernetics and systems thinking. In summary, it means that whomever has the greatest flexibility in behaviour will have the greatest influence over any situation they are in.


Any means that can be brought to bear to achieve an outcome: physiology, states, thought, strategies, experiences, people, events or possessions.

Resourceful State

The total neurological and physiological experience when a person feels resourceful.

S NLP GLOSSARYSecondary Gain

Where some seemingly negative or problematic behaviour actually carries out some positive function at some other level. For example, smoking may help a person to relax or help them fit a particular self-image. Not purely an NLP term, this refers to the situation where some apparently negative or problematic behaviour results in some positive end result in some way. This makes the problematic behaviour more likely to continue.

Sensory Acuity

The process of learning to make finer and more useful distinctions about the sense information we get from the world. One of the benefits that come from studying NLP is the realisation that so much more is going on out there than we are normally aware of.

Sensory-Based Description

Information that is directly observable and verifiable by the senses. It is the difference between “The lips are pulled taut, some parts of her teeth are showing and the edges of her mouth are higher than the main line of her mouth” and “She’s happy” – which is an interpretation.

Second Position

Seeing the world from another person?s point of view and so understanding their reality.


Lessen the impact of a direct question by softening voice tone or preamble such as “Would you be willing to tell me ….?

Spatial Anchoring

This is a term referring to the way of using physical location as an anchor. For example, an individual might associate a particular state with a particular location. Later, when they want to instantly access that state, they can make it much easier and more effective by stepping into that location. Spatial anchoring is often used to cleanly separate different states, so that the individual can more effectively deal with each state as a distinct entity. Also called psycho-geography.


The total ongoing mental and physical conditions from which a person is acting. The state we are in affects our capabilities and interpretation of experience. The individual will respond to stimuli differently, depending upon the state they are in at a particular time. Also, the information that the person receives from the outside world will be filtered according to the state they are in, resulting in a different perception of what is happening. This difference can be empowering or disempowering.

Stimulus Response

An association between an experience and a subsequent so-called reaction; the natural learning process Ivan P. Pavlov demonstrated when he correlated the ringing of a bell to the secretion of saliva in dogs.


A set of explicit mental and behavioural steps used to achieve a specific outcome. In NLP, the most important aspect of a strategy is the representational systems used to carry out the specific steps.


The special sensory qualities perceived by each of the five senses. For example, visual sub-modalities include colour, shape, movement, brightness, depth, etc., auditory submodalities include volume, pitch, tempo, etc., and kinaesthetic sub-modalities include pressure, temperature, texture, location, etc. Submodalities are used in a large number of techniques in NLP – by changing the submodalities of a memory or thought, we can change the effect they have on us.

Surface Structure

An utterance. The words or language used to describe or stand for the actual primary sensory representations stored in the brain.

Swish Pattern

A generative NLP sub-modality process that programs your brain to go in a new direction. Is very effective in changing habits or unwanted behaviours into new constructive ways.


The process of overlap between representational systems, characterised by phenomena like see-feel circuits, in which a person derives feelings from what they see, and hear-feel circuits, in which a person gets feelings from what they hear.


To do with systems, looking at relationships and consequences over time and space rather than linear cause and effect.

T NLP GLOSSARYThird Position

When you observe yourself and others.


The way we store pictures, sounds, and feelings of our past, present and future. This refers to the unconscious method we have for storing our memories, and our plans or goals for the future. The assumption is made that if we can differentiate between today, last Thursday, and our next birthday, then we must have some way of sorting time in our minds; the only question is how?


An altered state with an inward focus of attention on a few stimuli.

Transderivational Search

The act of locating meaning(s) which may not be explicit or implicit in a surface structure. When a person is asked to ‘go inside and think of a time when …’, they will typically do a transderivational search, i.e., search their memories/beliefs/wishes, etc for an event which matches the meaning of that phrase.


Connecting the meaning of one representation to the same meaning in another representation.


This is the opposite of ‘downtime’, and means where the individual is paying attention to what is going on external to them, in their environment, and not to their internal processes.


A technique or approach in which a person’s specific strategy or pattern of behaviour is paced or matched in order to influence the person’s response.


Values are the things that are important to you – not objects or people, but experiences/feelings such as learning, health, wisdom, respect. They are non-physical qualities that we seek to have more of in our life.


Relating to sight or the sense of sight.

W NLP GLOSSARYWell-Formedness Conditions

In NLP a particular outcome is well-formed when it is: (1) stated in positives, (2) initiated and maintained by the individual, (3) ecological – maintains the quality of all rapport systems, and (4) testable in experience – sensory based.

Well-Formed Outcome

A well-formed outcome is an outcome which meets the following criteria:
Positive ensure that the goal is what you want, not what you don’t want
Own-Part ensure that the goal can be achieved and maintained by you, without any necessary intervention by others or by luck.
Specific ensure goal is as specific as possible. What? Where? How? How? When?
Evidence define how you will know when you have achieved your goal, in terms of what you will see, hear, feel, smell or taste when it is completed.
Ecology ensure that the goal will maintain the positive by-products of your current situation, and will not create any unwanted by-products