The Elder Columns, Part 2 – Creating an Overview of Possible Elements of NLP

The Elder Columns, Part 2

Creating an Overview of Possible Elements of NLP

Jaap Hollander, Lucas Derks, Bruce Grimley and Lisa de Rijk


The Story So Far

In the first part of the Elder Columns (Hollander et al, 2016) we offered a series of arguments in favour of expert validation (in the form of voting) to define NLP. Our reasoning went as follows:

  1. There has been no central authority regulating NLP, and no shared definition of NLP, since 1980, when John Grinder and Richard Bandler broke up their partnership.
  2. Today  there are hundreds of different principles, models, formats and techniques that are claimed to be NLP.
  3. In the last 35 years, NLP has expanded beyond a single expert’s definition, no matter how revered the expert or how extensive the definition. 
  4. Defining NLP is crucial for 
    • Recognition of NLP
    • Development of new formats and models
    • Scientific research
    • Teaching standards
    • Branding of NLP services.
  1. Neither accepting a single definition offered by one NLP expert, nor combining several definitions, nor subdividing NLP into narrower categories like ‘Core NLP’ or ‘Incorporated in NLP’ results in a clear and shared definition of NLP.
  2. A novel idea is to determine the boundaries of NLP by voting.
  3. Defining NLP by voting has three major advantages: 
    1. It circumvents the obstacles mentioned above.
    2. It falls within the tradition of expert validation in psychological testing.
    3. It harnesses collective intelligence (the ‘wisdom of crowds’).
  4. In the NLP Leadership Summit we have a group with over a hundred members, each of whom is an NLP trainer or author with a minimum of 15 years of experience. The availability of this group makes voting a viable option.
  5. The authors devised a program named ‘The Elder Columns’, which entailed:
    1. Formulating a long list of potential NLP elements
    2. Formulating a set of categories these elements could be placed in. 
    3. Devising an on line registration system for voting on which elements belong in which category.
      + (plus) This is NLP
      0 (zero) I don’t know / I’m not sure
      - (minus) This is not NLP
    4. Inviting Summit members - and possibly at a later date other NLP trainers with the same teaching experience - to vote on each element of the list.
    5. Calculating the resulting ‘score’ for each element.
    6. Publishing the scores in a list called ‘The Elder Columns’.
    7. Devising an on line system for both adding and evaluating - by voting - new potential NLP elements.

The First List

In 2016 we constructed a first list. We started with the International Association for Neuro Linguistic Programming standards, as displayed on their website. To this we added other NLP elements found on other websites describing NLP training courses as well as the practitioners and masters programs taught by IEP (1984-2016). We then looked at any lists we could find on the web. Finally we added elements from the Encyclopaedia of NLP (Dilts and Delozier, 2000) that we thought central to NLP.

Omitted from this first list were any elements that we found either

  • Highly specific, like the ‘Threshold reversal pattern’.
  • Internationally unfamiliar, like the ‘I wonder how strategy’.
  • Explicitly attributed to something else than NLP, like Bandlers ‘Design Human Engineering’.

This resulted in a list of 78 elements.
We then invited all Summit Members to add elements to this list.

The Voting List

Quite a few Summit members responded to the first list. We looked carefully at their responses and we changed the list wherever appropriate. This led to a great many corrections and additions. 

Appendix A shows who responded, what their contributions were and how their contributions influenced the list. This resulted in  a second list, which we called ‘The Voting List’. 

Please note, that the discussion in Appendix A also contains several ideas about possible future projects for the Leadership Summit originating from comments on the first list

We were grateful to receive these comments. since they enabled us to specify, complete and more clearly structure the list. We believe we ended up with a much better list, which is already showing signs of the ‘wisdom of crowds’. We carefully documented all the changes and additions, to provide future generations with the opportunity to make different choices.

We originally subdivided the voting list into six categories, later adding a seventh one (‘Distinctions’).

1A. Premises about Experience

1B. Premises about Communication and Change

2A. Distinctions

2B. Attitude

2C. Model of Change

3A. Skills

3B. Techniques

This roughly translates into axioms, method and technology:

      1. Axioms 
      2. 7.A.Premises about experience
        Axioms we accept as true without proof about human experience.
      3. 7.B.Premises about communication and change
        Axioms we accept about communication and change.
    1. IX.2.Method
      1. Distinctions
        What we choose to observe
      2. Attitude
        General attitudes and emotional states we work from when communicating and promoting change.
      3. Change Model
        General rules we adhere to and global maps of communication and change we use.
    2. IX.C.Technology
    3. Skills
      Capabilities we need to bring axioma and method into practice and effectively work with techniques.
    4. Techniques
      Step by step procedures we use to achieve specific results.

The Next Step in the Elder Columns Process

The next step will be to have as many Summit members as possible vote on the list and study and interpret the results.

Voting List
of NLP Elements


With this list of NLP elements, you can cast your vote as to what you consider

to be NLP and what not.

The goal of this voting process, is to come up with a broadly shared overview 

of what NLP is and what it is is not.

Information about the You, the Voter

  • My First Name and Last Name
  • Voting Date (Today’s Date)
  • I received my NLP Master Practitioners Certificate in … (Year)
  • I have been Teaching NLP Practitioners Courses since … (Year)
  • Number of NLP Practitioners Courses Taught … (Number)
  • I have been teaching NLP Master Practitioners Courses since … (Year)
  • Number of NLP Master Practitioners Courses Taught … (Number)
  • I have Authored … Books on NLP(Number and Titles)
  • Comments (Open)

Category 1A

Premises about Experience
(Epistemological Presuppositions about Human Experience)

Working from the premise (presupposition) that…

The map is not the territory.
Internal representations of sensory data do not correspond to the external objects that they represent in an exact one to one relationship. People respond to their own perceptions of reality.

Life and mind are systemic processes.

The processes that take place within a person, and between people and their
environment, are systemic. Our bodies, our minds, our societies and our universe form an ecology of systems and sub-systems all of which interact with each other.

Experience can be reduced to sensory elements (VAKOG).
Perceptions can be reduced to an interactive system of elements of sensory experience (VAKOG) and their impact un subsequent experience and emotion be changed by altering these elements.

Structure is more important than content.

Structure, process and pattern are more important to the nature of perception and behaviour than is content.

The mind is a feed-forward system that predicts the future

The mind creates models. It predicts future events in order to determine what can be done now (‘backward planning’) in order to achieve desired futures and avoid undesired ones.

Category 1B

Premises about Communication and Change
Epistemological Presuppositions about Communication and Change

Working from the premise (presupposition) that…

The meaning of communication is the response elicited.
The meaning of a communication to another person is the response it elicits in that person, regardless of the intent of the communicator.

People have the resources for the changes they desire.

People already have all of the resources they need to act effectively. Change comes from releasing the appropriate resource, or activating the potential resource, for a particular context by enriching a person's map of the world.

The system with the greatest flexibility survives.
Ashby’s first law of cybernetics: ‘The larger the variety of actions available to a control system, the larger the variety of perturbations it is able to compensate.’

If what you are doing does not work, it is useful to do something else.

If activities do not bring the desired outcome closer, this may constructively be interpreted as a signal that more flexibility is needed to find activities that do bring the desired outcome closer).

Resistance is a signal of insufficient rapport.

Mirroring a system’s model of the world will increase the system’s willingness to accept ideas presented by the mirroring agent. Unwillingness to accept ideas may therefore be constructed as an effect of insufficient mirroring.

There is no failure, only feedback.
When a desired outcome is not achieved, the experience may be credibly labelled as feedback. This  produces a more productive attentional and emotional state than labelling it as failure.

All behaviour has a positive intention.

Systems strive for balance and stability. All behaviour is (or at one time was) perceived as a way to enhance balance and stability, from the point of view of the person whose behaviour it is. It is more productive to respond to the intention than to the problematic behaviour.

People make the best choices available to them.
Given the possibilities they perceive, people make the best choice they have. If given a more appropriate choice within the context of their model of the world, people are likely to take it.

If one can do it, others can learn to do it.
Human capabilities result from sequences of internal representations within an - often unconscious - model of the world. Assuming a base level of physical capability, people may develop capabilities by adopting similar representations and models.

Submodalities determine the effect of an experience.

Submodality distinctions in sensory experience code the salience and other emotive elements of that experience. Changing submodalities will change the salience and emotion of that experience.

Category 2A


Distinctions that are useful to observe in experience or descriptions of experience.
These distinctions can always be observed.

Recognising these distinctions, as well as matching and shifting them, constitute NLP skills. In the interest of brevity, we did not repeat these skills in section 3A (Skills).

Recognising, matching and shifting Sensory Modalities

VAKOG: Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, Olfactory and Gustatory

Recognising, matching and shifting Submodalities

Finer distinctions within the modalities

For instance the size of an image, the volume of a sound or the physical location of a


Recognising, matching and shifting Association versus Dissociation

Is someone reliving an experience or observing it?

Recognising, matching and shifting Focus Outside versus Focus Inside

Also referred to as ‘Uptime versus Downtime’

Is someone's attention on the inner experience or on the environment?

Recognising, matching and shifting Analog versus Digital

Is it a sliding scale phenomenon or is it an all-or-nothing, 0/1?

Recognising, matching and shifting Presupposition versus Explicit Statement versus Implication
Is something said explicitly or is it presupposed or implied?

Recognising, matching and shifting Sensory experience versus Categorisation (Complex


Is someone describing a sensory experience or the meaning they assign to it?

Recognising, matching and shifting Elements of the Structure of Subjective Experience

  • Context
  • External Behaviour
  • Internal/Emotional State
  • Internal Computations/Processes
  • Criteria
  • Beliefs

Recognising, matching and shifting Neuro-Logical Levels

  • Belonging (Spiritual or Social)
  • Identity
  • Beliefs (Expectations)
  • Capabilities (Skills, Competencies)
  • Behaviors
  • Environment (Context)

Recognising, matching and shifting Meta Programs

  • Proactive versus Reactive (or Reflective) 
  • Towards versus Away From
  • Internal Referenced versus External Referenced
  • Options versus Procedure 
  • General versus Specific 
  • Matching versus Mismatching 
  • Internal locus of control versus External locus of control
  • Maintenance versus Development versus Change 
  • People versus Activities versus Information 
  • Concept versus Structure versus Use 
  • Together versus Proximity versus Solo
  • Past versus Present versus Future
  • Self-oriented versus Other-oriented
  • In Time  versus Through Time

Recognising and shifting Separating versus Joining

Are elements of experience being separated from each other or joined together?

Recognising and matching Graves Drives
Motivational drives as used in Spiral Dynamics

Recognising and matching Core States

High level intentions like ‘peace’ or ‘unity’

Recognising, matching and shifting Meta States

States induced by other states, f.i. being glad you can be angry

Category 2B


Sponsoring Attitude

Joining the other person's model of the world and visualising their potential

Modelling Orientation
A desire to find out how someone’s map functions, and how that functioning can be improved or transferred to others


A state characterised by

  • Being Centered
  • Being Open
  • Being Attentive
  • Being Connected 
  • Holding difficult feelings.

Category 2C

Model of Change

TOTE Model for Goal Directed Change
A recursive sequence of Test - Operate - Test - Exit:

  • Knowing what the goal is.
  • Knowing when you have achieved that goal.
  • If you do not get closer to the goal, use different actions.
  • Stop the actions once you have achieved the goal.

Well-Formed Outcomes
Asking questions to help formulate an outcome that meets the following wellformedness conditions:

  • Stated in positive (towards) terms
  • Within control of the person desiring the outcome
  • Placed within an appropriate type of context
  • Stated in sensory terms
  • Acceptable in terms of possible negative side-effects.


Using spontaneous patterns for pacing or as resources

SCORE Model for Choosing or Designing Interventions


  • Symptoms
  • Causes
  • Outcomes
  • Resources
  • Effects 

and their relationships

Category 3A

Basic NLP-Skills Useful for Communication and Change

Ordered Alphabetically


Combining experiences

As-if Frame

With pseudo-orientation in time as one form

Calibrating Internal States and Processes
Sensory acuity, recognising states and processes based on non-verbal  expressions

Clean Language

Questions based on the work of David Grove and used in Symbolic Modelling

Double Induction

Delivering a hypnotic induction where two people speak simultaneously

Ecological check
Checking the desired state for negative side effects

Eye Accessing Cues, Detecting and Working with

As well as verbal, tonal, and postural cues for detecting modality

Working with the LAB Profile

Identifying meta programs with the Language And Behaviour profile

Leading, verbal and nonverbal

Inviting someone to shift their experience to a different verbal or nonverbal category

Meta Model Questions

Milton Model Language Patterns

Working with MindSonar MetaProfile Analysis

Identifying meta programs with the MindSonar computer system


  • Present (problem) states
  • Desired (goal) states
  • Resource states
  • Abilities 

Rapport (Mirroring/Pacing)
Fostering trust by mirroring and pacing

  • Posture
  • Breathing
  • Tone of voice
  • Rhythm and speed of speaking
  • Gestures
  • Rhythm of movement
  • Key verbal expressions
  • Sensory preference
  • Criteria 
  • Values
  • Culture

Stacking Realities
Embedding one or more metaphors into another


  • Eliciting a strategy
  • Pacing a strategy
  • Installing a strategy by
    • Anchoring
    • Metaphor
    • Rehearsal

Time Lines, Working with

  • Individual time lines
  • Generational time lines

Verbal Reframing 

Offering a different meaning fitting the same facts

Category 3B

(Models, Formats Procedures)
Ordered Alphabetically

Criteria for NLP Techniques
To be considered NLP, techniques used should

  • Describe structure.
    Emphasises process and structure, as opposed to content.
  • Relate to the nervous system.
    Describes relationships between its distinctions and the functions of the human nervous system.
  • Be recognisable in spontaneous human interaction.
    Uses distinctions that can be easily identified in natural and spontaneous patterns of verbal and non-verbal communication.
  • Be precise
    (Provides practical exercises, techniques or practices that allow people to reliably replicate the same experience, with the same results)

Allergy Process


Aligning Neuro-Logical Levels Format

Aligning Perceptual Positions

Auditory Tempo Shift to change strong feelings

Bateson Strategy

Belief Audit for identifying limiting beliefs

Belief Outframing

Building Belief Bridges

Change Personal History

Changing a Strategy

  • Learning strategy
  • Decision strategy
  • Motivation strategy
  • Strategy for responding to criticism

Circle of Excellence

Co-Dependence Format

Collapsing Anchors

Collective Intelligence Techniques

Communicating with a Part

Compulsion Blow Out

Core Finding Engine for identifying limiting beliefs

Core Transformation

Criteria Spin

Deep Tissue Massage

Disney Strategy

Dynamic Spin Release

Engaging the Body's Natural Processes of Healing Format

Eliciting a Resource, Using Communicating with the Future Self

Eliciting a Resource, Using a Reference Experience

Eliciting a Resource, Using Physiology

Eliciting a Resource, Using a Role Model

Family Constellations

Forgiveness Model

Future Pacing - Adapting a change to future contexts

Generative Collaboration Techniques

Generative Change Format

Gift of Nature Technique

Godiva Chocolate Pattern

Grief Resolution, Shame Resolution, Guilt Resolution, Anger/Forgiveness process 

Hero’s Journey Format

I-Wonder-How Technique for generating practical new ideas

Imperative Self Format

Identity Matrix

Inner Child Work

Integrating Archetypal Energies

Integrating Conflicting Beliefs Format

Last Straw Threshold Pattern

Lifeline Reframing

mBIT - Multiple Brain Integration Techniques

Meta Mirror Format

Metaphor for inducing change

Negotiating Between Parts

New Behaviour Generator

Alternatively referred to as ‘Applying an inner role model to generate new capabilities’

Operating Metaphor 

Provocative Change Techniques - Modelled from Frank Farrelly

Reimprinting Format


Resonance Pattern

Shifting the Importance of Criteria 

Six Step Reframing

Social Panorama Techniques

Spinning Feelings to change strong feelings

Swish Pattern

Symbolic Modelling

Timeline Reframing Format

Transforming Negative Self-Talk Protocol 

Trauma Process using V-K Dissociation

Alternatively referred to as:

  • Rewind technique
  • Phobia Cure
  • Reconsolidation of Traumatic Memories (RTM)

V-K Squash

Wholeness Proces

Are you missing any NLP elements from this list?

Are there any NLP presuppositions, skills, techniques, et cetera that you think should be

on this list, but they’re not? Please note them down here.

Appendix A 

Contributions to the Voting List
by Summit Members

Ordered by Contribution Date

Melody Cheal

  • Suggested the following additions: 
    • Timeline
    • Resourcing from future self
    • Generational Timeline
    • Clean Language
    • LAB profile

Response: We added Generational Timelines, Clean Language, LAB profile and MindSonar MetaProfile Analysis to the list and inserted the word ‘future’ in the description of electing a resource through the older self.

Richard Gray

  • Contributed a list of concise, academically formulated formulations of NLP premises.
    Response: We added most of them as annotations to the premises in this list. We formulated short non-academic headings for orientation, followed by Grays in depth formulations.
  • Gray argued in favour of a list of axiomatic principles.
    Response: Hopefully this has now been achieved in Category 1A and 1B (Premises).
  • Gray suggested categorising the list according to logical levels, as did several other contributors.
    Response: We subdivided the list in six categories (which corresponds with the Epistemology (1A and 1B) / Methodology (2A and 2B) /Technology (3A and 3B) division):

    We subdivided the list in six categories:

1A. Premises about Experience

1B. Premises about Communication and Change

2A. Attitude

2B. Model of Change

3A. Skills

3B. Techniques

    • Gray went over the first manuscript of the voting list and suggested several corrections.
      Response: We implemented all these corrections.

John Seymour

  • Pointed out missing elements: Well formedness conditions for goals, Modelling problem strategies and Simple diagnostics
    Response: We added well formedness conditions. Checked that ‘modelling strategies’ was in de sublist of modelling focusses, asked for clarification on ‘simple diagnostics’.

Robert Dilts

  • Contributed criteria, formulated by him and Judith DeLozier, for NLP techniques.
    Response: Added Dilts’ and DeLoziers criteria for NLP techniques to Category IV, Model of Change.
  • Contributed short lists of first, second and third generation NLP techniques.
    Response: Checked whether these techniques were in the list and added most of these techniques (primarily third generation NLP) where they were missing.
  • Suggested subdividing the list into subdivisions like 
    • Core NLP
    • Mostly NLP
    • Peripheral NLP
    • Offshoot of NLP
    • Inspired by NLP
    • Parallel to NLP
    • 1st, 2nd, 3rd Generation NLP

Response: In ‘The Elder Columns Part 1’ we already explained in some detail why we chose not to use this subdivision.

James Lawley, part 1

Contributed a set of comments, including:

  • NLP cannot be defined by techniques alone.
  • Modelling is important in NLP also as modelling the present state (checked).
  • NLP’s primary domain is subjectivity.
  • NLP works with language, both verbal and nonverbal.

Response: The authors wholeheartedly agree with these statements. No changes were made to the list based on them.

James Lawley, part 2

In a second contribution, Lawley offered more comments and suggestions.

  • The primary interest of NLP is structure, process and pattern of mind, where ‘mind’ is conceptualised as ‘extended mind’. This concept is referred to by some scientists with the acronym DEEDS (dynamical, embodied, extended, distributed and situated).
    Response: DEEDS is at present beyond the scope of the Elder Columns project. Alternatively, we might consider adding a DEEDS-like statement to the premises about experience (Category 1A). Unfortunately, Lawley does not specify the overlaps and differences between DEEDS and the common NLP conceptualisation of ‘mind’. DEEDS seems to overlap at least to some extent with the premise that ‘Life and Mind are Systemic Processes’.
    We did add ‘Structure is more important than content.’ to Category 1A (using Grays formulation to annotate).
  • NLP techniques and models are aids to learning. They are examples (‘scaffolding’), they are not the process.
    Response: We believe we have covered this mostly by the premises in Category 1A.
  • There is something called ‘the core of NLP’, this metaphor - apparently borrowed from geology -  appeals to Lawley more than the metaphor of the toolbox. He offers several suggestions as to what this core of NLP is.
    Response: In part I of the Elder Columns, we explained why we chose not use the metaphor of core.
  • Experienced NLP-ers appear to work directly with experience.
    Response: We believe this is covered - to some extent at least - in Category 1A.
  • Good NLP modellers show an interaction between their model of the world and that of the person they are modelling. They use these differences to achieve an outcome.
    Response: We agree and we believe this is covered mostly in Category 1A.

Julian Russell

  • Commented that he would remove half of the list and just state the presuppositions.
    Response: No changes were made based on this comment. We believe that the other categories on this list, attitude, change model, skills and techniques are defining aspects of NLP as well.

Franz-Josef Huecker

  • Commented that the presuppositions are indispensable.
    Response: Hollander looked into adding ‘indispensable' to the headings of Categories 1A and 1B, but the headings already say ‘works from the presupposition that’ and ‘indispensable’ seemed redundant. If you are already presupposing something, it doesn’t matter whether it is indispensable or merely desirable. ‘Indispensable’ refers more to the function of a presupposition than to the presupposition itself.
  • Enneagram and Graves are incompatible with NLP.
    Response: We expect these elements to be voted out. We believe it is good to have a few items on the list that we expect to be voted out. That way we demonstrate that not every element on the list is voted in automatically. Hueckers remark made us more aware of this, so we added two more ‘far out’ elements (See if you can spot them!)
  • Google definitions (German and Spanish) may be useful.
    Response: These definitions sound good. In part 1 of ‘The Elder Columns’ we explained in detail, however, why we do not believe any single definition will be accepted by all - or most - people using NLP.
  • Less is more.
    Response: Absolutely.

Tim Hallbom

  • Remarked that some elements were missing from the list: eye accessing cues, sensory acuity, dynamic spin release and several presuppositions.
    Response: We annotated ‘Calibrating internal states and processes’ with ‘Sensory Acuity’. We added eye accessing cues and dynamic spin release to the list. We hope the missing presuppositions are covered in the revised Categories 1A and 1B.
  • Hallbom noted that there are several ‘Forgiveness Models’. Which one are we referring to? He suggests using categories like ‘Forgiveness Models’ and  then specifying variants.
    Response: The name of a technique sometimes refers to the goal (as in ‘Forgiveness Model’) sometimes to the present state (f.i. ‘Allergy Technique’), sometimes to the procedure (f.i. ‘Six Step Reframing’) and sometimes to the person it was modelled from (f.i. ‘Disney Strategy Format’). By the way, if we were reformulating NLP, we might choose one or two of those naming processes (f.i. goal plus procedure). In the case of the ‘Forgiveness Model’ the goal is indicated by the name, but there may be more than one procedure in use. This is probably true for many NLP techniques. To follow Hallboms suggestion systematically, we would first need to rename many techniques and then establish either the one best variant or a list of variants with their pro’s and con’s. Again, this could be an interesting Leadership Summit project for the future. For now, we decided to go with the name usage ‘most common in NLP’, especially to keep the elements recognisable for voters. We do realise however, that the term ‘most common in NLP’ is not very specific.

Anneke Durlinger

  • Commented on which elements she considers to be or not be NLP.
    Response: This will come back later in the voting process.
  • Suggested the addition of The Hero’s Journey, Embracing the Paradox, Archetypical Energies and Resource from Younger Self.
    Response: We added ‘The Hero’s Journey Format’ to the list.

Brian Van der Horst

  • Commented that COACH and SCORE are frames, not techniques.
    Response: They are listed under Categories 2A and 2B (Attitudes and Models of Change) not under Category 3B, Techniques.
  • Proposed to add ‘Engaging the Body's Natural Processes of Healing’, ’Co-Dependence’ and ‘Imperative Self’.
    Response: We added them to the list.
  • Commented that many submodality techniques are missing from the list, unfortunately without specifying said techniques.
    Response: No changes to the list.
  • Commented that there are various strategy techniques extant that are not taught because the last generation of trainers are incompetent to teach them. Again, Van der Horst did not specify the techniques he refers to.
    Response: No changes to the list.
  • Suggested adding materials from several NLP-books by Cameron-Bandler Lebeau, Gordon, Faulkner, Hall and Grinder, again without mentioning specific techniques or models.
    Response: No changes to the list.
  • Suggested the following categorisation of the list of techniques
    • Anchoring variations
    • Chaining States: Dissociation and Association
    • Strategies
    • Sub modalities
    • Reframing
    • Meta Program Interventions
    • Metaphors and Hypnotic Language Patterns

Response: We are strongly in favour of a subdivision in the lists of skills and techniques. Van der Horsts categories might be a good start.
As these categories are, however, 

    • Some techniques would be difficult to place (f.i. ‘Change Personal History’ could be placed in at least three of these categories).
    • Some categories would contain very few techniques (f.i. ‘Reframing’ would contain only two, unless every variant of reframing were presented as a separate technique).
    • Some techniques would find no home (f.i. ‘Negotiating between Parts’ seems to fit in none of these categories). 

We decided not to use this categorisation, but Van de Horst did alert us to the fact that it would be useful to have a subcategorisation especially for 3A and 3B, and his categories could be a good beginning. Once more: a possible future Leadership Summit project. We did sort the lists of skills and techniques alphabetically for easy searching.

  • Commented that the list of presuppositions was incomplete and referred us to an article by Robert Dilts (
    In this article, Dilts makes a distinction between
    • Linguistic Presuppositions
      Certain information must be accepted as true in order to make sense of a particular statement. F.i., to understand the statement, ‘As soon as you stop trying to sabotage my efforts, we'll be able to make more progress’, one must assume that the person spoken to has been, in fact, trying to sabotage the efforts.
    • Epistemological Presuppositions
      Deep, and often unstated, beliefs that form the foundation of a particular system of knowledge. As the foundation of an epistemology, they must be ‘presupposed’ and cannot be proven. Euclid, f.i., built his entire geometry upon the concept of the 'point'. A point is defined as 'an entity that has a position but no other properties’. ­It has no size, no mass, no colour, no shape. It is of course impossible to prove that a point really has no size, mass, colour, etc. However, if you accept this presupposition, along with a few others, you can build a whole system of geometry.

Response: In the list, we have been referring to epistemological presuppositions, so to be perfectly clear, we added ‘epistemological' to the relevant categories.

In the same article, Dilts offers a summary of the basic presuppositions of NLP and their corollaries. He derives most other presuppositions from two basic ones: ‘The Map is not the Territory’ and ‘Life and Mind are Systemic Processes’.

The Map is not the Territory

      • People respond to their own perceptions of reality.
      • Every person has their own individual map of the world. No individual map of the world is any more ‘real’ or ‘true’ than any other.
      • The meaning of a communication to another person is the response it elicits in that person, regardless of the intent of the communicator.
      • The 'wisest' and most 'compassionate' maps are those which make available the widest and richest number of choices, as opposed to being the most ‘real’ or ‘accurate’.
      • People already have (or potentially have) all of the resources they need to act effectively.
      • People make the best choices available to them given possibilities and the capabilities that they perceive available to them from their model of the world. Any behaviour no matter how evil, crazy or bizarre it seems is the best choice available to the person at that point in time - if given a more appropriate choice (within the context of their model of the world) the person will be likely to take it.
      • Change comes from releasing the appropriate resource, or activating the potential resource, for a particular context by enriching a person's map of the world.

Life And 'Mind' Are Systemic Processes

    • The processes that take place within a person, and between people and their
      environment, are systemic. Our bodies, our societies and our universe form an ecology of systems and sub-systems all of which interact with and mutually influence each other.
    • It is not possible to completely isolate any part of a system from the rest of the system. People cannot not influence each other. Interactions between people form feedback loops - such that a person will be effected by the results that their own actions make on other people.
    • Systems are 'self organising' and naturally seek states of balance and stability. There are no failures, only feedback.
    • No response, experience or behaviour is meaningful outside of the context in which it was established or the response it elicits next. Any behaviour, experience or response may serve as a resource or limitation depending on how it fits in with the rest of the system.
    • Not all interactions in a system are on the same level. What is positive on one level may be negative on another level. It is useful to separate behaviour from "self" - to separate the positive intent, function, belief, etc. that generates the behaviour from the behaviour itself.
    • At some level all behaviour is (or at one time was) "positively intended". It is or was perceived as appropriate given the context in which it was established, from the point of view of the person whose behaviour it is. It is easier and more productive to respond to the intention rather than the expression of a problematic behaviour.
    • Environments and contexts change. The same action will not always produce the same result. In order to successfully adapt and survive, a member of a system needs a certain minimum amount of flexibility. That amount of flexibility has to be proportional to the variation in the rest of the system. As a system becomes more complex, more flexibility is required.
    • If what you are doing is not getting the response you want then keep varying your behaviour until you do elicit the response.

Response: We re-ordered the premises based on Dilts’ division, while maintaining the two categories 1A (premises about experience) and 1B (premises about communication and change). 

We added ‘People make the best choice available to them’ to 1B.

We had already added many of Grays descriptions as annotations to the premises, now we added many of Dilts’ formulations as well. We did this to make it as clear as possible what people will be voting on.

A question that came up was: shouldn’t we do the same for all other elements (annotate them for clarity)? This would, however, make the task of voting harder (more reading). Also this annotation would take more time than the present authors were willing to invest. Once more: this could be a good future, long term Leadership Summit project.

Robert Steinhouse

  • Suggested adding from Transactional Analysis: 
    • Parent, Adult and Child
    • The Drama Triangle 
    • The ‘Victim’ Perspective
    • TA work on the Life Script

Response: We did not add these elements. Adding elements from other systems, no matter how valuable, would make the list too long. Also, it would change the character of the list from a list of NLP elements to a list of any element found useful in combination with NLP.

Byron Lewis

  • Contributed an Excel sheet with the First List with the following additions:
    • Pseudo-orientation in time (The ‘as if’ frame)
    • NLP Presupposition: People make the best choice given the context
    • Ecological check
    • NLP Presupposition: If what you're doing doesn't work, do something else
    • Future pacing
    • Double induction
    • Leading (verbal and non-verbal)
    • Pacing and mirroring (verbal and non-verbal)
    • Core States (Andreas)
    • Stacking realities (embedded metaphors)
    • New behaviour generator
    • Strategy installation techniques: Anchoring, dissociated state, metaphor, reframing, rehearsal
    • The swish pattern (a la Bandler)
    • Utilisation: i.e., from Frogs into Princes: ‘Utilisation is the psychological counterpart of the oriental martial arts…’

Response: By the time we processed Lewis’ contribution, ‘People make the best choice given the context’ and ‘Pacing and mirroring’ had been added already. The ‘New Behaviour Generator’ was mentioned in the annotation of the Disney Strategy. All other elements Lewis proposed were added, either in annotations or as separate elements.

Connirae Andreas

Andreas made the following points:

  • She believes it is valuable to define both ‘What is NLP’ and ‘What is not NLP’. 
  • Andreas defines NLP - beautifully, in our opinion - as: 
    • The study of the structure of subjective experience. 
    • It includes especially the study of the structure of limiting experience, the study of useful/resourceful/healing experience, and transitions between these. 
    • It includes the study both of the subjective experience within each of us, and communication patterns between people.
    • It includes the study of observable external behaviour as it relates to the structure of experience. (e.g. eye accessing cues, skin tone changes, postural and movement changes, etc.)
    • It includes noticing changes in subjective experience, and/or behaviour.
    • It includes creating models for such change, described in terms of structure (process) rather than content.
    • A primary hallmark of NLP is it’s precision and specificity. This is what makes NLP of unique value, and in many cases differentiates between what can be considered NLP and “not NLP”. One test for whether something is precise and specific, is whether the description can allow someone else to reliably “step into” or replicate the same experience, with the same results.
      Note that “Precision and specificity” includes the ability to be general and vague, when done in a precise way for a specific purpose.

  • Andreas continues with a description of what what NLP is not.
    • NLP does not include study of physiological responses or body changes at a chemical level. These responses do happen as a result of changing the structure of experience (and may be of interest in assessing the results of NLP methods), but aren’t the primary focus of NLP.
    • The primary unique contribution of NLP is the degree to which it has shifted the focus to a precise and specific description of subjective experience, in contrast to conceptual or theoretical description of experience.
      As a single example, the word ‘dissociated’ is used commonly in many types of therapy, but in most cases has imprecise meaning - nobody can say what it is in such a way that someone else can reliably do exactly the same thing. In NLP the word ‘dissociation’ has a very specific meaning, and anyone can do it.

  • Andreas suggests using metaphor and examples, along with definitions. Just definitions will be too tedious for most people to wade through. If we don't have definitions at all, we won't be taken seriously. But if we only have them, nobody will want to read it.

Response: We are impressed by Andreas’ definition of NLP. As we argued in ‘The Elder Columns Part 1’, we believe that no single statement will lead to a definition of NLP that is at the same time precise and shared, but Andreas’ definition certainly seems to come close.
It occurred to us, studying Andreas’ contribution, that a complete description of NLP could consist of five aspects:

    • Elements
      An expert validated (voted on) list of elements, as we are constructing right now in the Elder Columns project.
    • Element Clarifications
      Annotations to the list of elements, clarifying them. For instance:
        • Stating the purpose of the element 
        • Providing links for that element to sources like the Encyclopaedia of NLP
        • Providing video in which the element is demonstrated
    1. Multiple Definitions
      A similarly validated short list of 3 to 5 definitions of the whole of NLP.
    2. Definition Illustrations
      An agreed upon set of practical examples and metaphors illustrating these 3 - 5 definitions.
    3. History
      Referring to who first described the technique and any subsequent changes and developments.

We will diligently proceed with the first aspect and refer aspects 2 to 5 to the Leadership Summit as possible future projects.

Andreas said that ‘A primary hallmark of NLP is its precision and specificity’ and that ‘One test for whether something is precise and specific, is whether the description can allow someone else to reliably replicate the same experience, with the same results’. We added  ‘Be precise’ to the criteria for NLP techniques, replacing ‘Provide tools’, since we believe that   providing tools is a way to be precise in the sense that Andreas describes.

Lucas Derks

Derks reminded us of the fact that some researchers refer to NLP techniques under another name. Bourke and Gray (2015), for instance, encountered so much institutional resistance against their research project mentioning NLP or using NLP terminology, that they rephrased the NLP Trauma Process into ‘Reconsolidation of Traumatic Memories (RTM)’. It seems they saw no other way of ever getting their research funded. Ironically they even renamed the ‘NLP Research and Recognition Project’ into ‘Research and Recognition Project’l, so that now even the project explicitly founded to provide recognition for NLP, does not mention NLP anymore… Lucas suggested that if NLP is to benefit from the results of research, the voting list should mention the alternative terms used by the researchers.

Response: We added ‘Alternatively called ‘Reconsolidation of Traumatic Memories (RTM)’ to the ‘Trauma Process’ entry. We added ‘Alternatively called ‘Applying an inner role model to generate new capabilities’ to the ‘New Behavior Generator’ entry.

Steve Andreas
Andreas offered a lengthy contribution, with many phrases in bold text, in which he referred to many specific entries and formulations in the list. He sent in his suggestions in the second feedback round (where the contributors were asked to evaluate what we had written about them in this appendix).

  • Being specific
    Andreas suggests we be as specific as possible in our description of the elements, in order to avoid misunderstandings.
    Response: We agree. And at the same time we find the list already formidable. We need to strike a balance between specificity on the one hand and practicality on the other hand, in terms of people still being motivated to read the whole list when voting.
  • Another round of comments on the list
    Andreas urges us to offer all members of the Leadership Summit a chance to amend the list again, even if they did not respond to our first requests to do so.
    Response: There may be elements on the list that people feel should not be there. Many people have asked us to remove certain elements. But elements not belonging in the list can simply be voted out. Then there may be elements lacking that people feel should be there. We amended this by adding a comments box at the end of the list, asking for missing elements. They can be voted on at a later date, in an additional voting round.
  • Is no individual map of the world more ‘real’ than any other?
    Andreas recommends we delete the sentence ‘No individual map of the world is more ‘real’ or ‘true’ than any other’ from the presuppositions section. He believes this doesn’t necessarily follow from ‘The map is not the territory,’ which he agrees is a foundation premise of NLP. He goes on to describe how some maps will get you to your destination and others won’t. Therefore, Andreas states, different maps are not equal to each other; some maps are more useful for a given purpose than others. Also, if you really believe that all maps are equal, Andreas says, there is no point in attempting to define NLP, because any definition will be as good as any other.
    Response: Being true or real on the one hand and being useful on they other hand are, in our opinion, separate issues. Some maps are true and useless other maps are false and useful. Logically, the position that ‘All maps are equally true’, leaves plenty of space for some maps being more useful than others. However, after a discussion with Anneke Meijer about f.i. racist positions being no less true than egalitarian positions, we decided to remove this statement anyway, as Andreas suggests. The statement may be philosophically correct, but is does focus attention on truth and reality, where it woud be more fruitfully focused on usefulness.
  • Feed-forward
    Andreas would like to add ‘The mind is a feed-forward system that predicts the future.’ to the presuppositions. Many entries in this category, he says, contain words that refer to future events, like ‘response elicited,’ ‘desire,’ ‘survives,’ ‘do something else’ or ‘intention’. There is evidence from neuroscience that perception and behaviour are most usefully understood as feed-forward systems, as for instance, the TOTE model, in which the T is a test for the desired future state.
    Response: Why not? The idea that people form models seems quite basic to NLP. So we added this presupposition and also a definition of ‘feed-forward system’, since we assumed not everybody knows the term. We sent Andreas an email asking him to evaluate the explanation. After some back-and-forth mailing we arrived at a definition which we added.
  • A new category
    Andreas proposes adding a new category, listing useful distinctions that will ‘always be present and useful to note’. He then mentions a number of distinctions he would like to enter into this new category. 
      • Modalities (VAKOG)
      • Submodalities
      • Past/Present/Future
      • Implication
      • Presupposition
      • Association/dissociation
      • Analog/Digital
      • Threshold
      • Separating/Joining with possible subcategories of 
          • Integration
          • Alternatives
          • Hierarchy
          • Nesting
      • Cause-Effect
      • Categorization (“complex equivalence”)
      • Context.

Response: The new category of ‘Distinctions’ seemed like a good idea. Andreas suggested it as category number 3A, but we added it as category 2A. Bringing the categories to:

1A. Premises about Experience

1B. Premises about Communication and Change

2A. Distinctions

2B. Attitude

2C. Model of Change

3A. Skills

3B. Techniques

There was something to be said for 3A too, but we found 2A a slightly better position, since the distinctions are quite basic.

We added most, if not all of the distinctions Andreas suggested. Separating/joining seems of a different character that the other distinctions, since it seems relevant mostly in change work and may not be observable in other types of communication. We decided to add it anyway and leave its maintenance in the list up to the voters. 

We changed ‘presupposition’ into the distinction ‘Presupposition / Explicit statement / Implication’, since both presupposition and implication are elements of meaning that are present but not explicitly expressed. 

We moved several other distinctions, like the structure of subjective experience, logical levels and meta programs from elsewhere in the list to the new ‘Distinctions’ category. They had resided under skills before, in the form of being able to register the distinction and/or work with it.

  • Scope and categorisation
    Since he sees them as central to change work, Andreas suggest we add ‘scope’ and ‘category’ to the list of distinctions (‘All change work results from changing one or more of the following three variables: 
        • A scope of experience in time or space
        • The categorisation of a scope
        • The logical level of categorisation.’)

Response: We did not add these distinctions, since ‘category’ was present already in the distinction of ‘Sensory experience versus Categorisation’, which, by the way, we added after Andreas saw the list. And we consider ‘scope’ to be represented already by the meta program distinction ‘general’ versus ‘specific’, a specification we added after Andreas last saw the list.

  • Logical levels in philosophy
    Andreas explains how he sees the term ‘logical level’ as referring to categorical inclusion. For instance, ‘mammals’ is a sub-category of ‘animals’ and therefore ‘animal’ is of a higher logical level than ‘mammal’. Since mathematicians call this ‘Naïve Set Theory’, Andreas suggests adding this term to the distinctions category.
    Response: Many people have presented similar arguments, ever since the introduction of the logical level concept to NLP by Dilts. At the same time, ‘logical levels’, in the Diltsonian sense of the word, has become a household term in NLP, which is a reason to include it in the list. We decided the change the term into ‘Neuro-Logical Levels’, even though - as Andreas goes on the state - they have ‘only the most tenuous relationship to neurology’. At least this sets them apart from - and may prevent confusion with - logical levels in the philosophical sense of the word.
  • Nominalisations
    The ‘COACH state’ in the attitude category is, according to Andreas, only a list of nominalisations, and therefore essentially meaningless. He suggests to remove it.
    Response: While we do believe that nominalisations are open to multiple interpretations, we do not believe they are meaningless. If this were true, the distinctions Andreas wants to add to the list, like ‘threshold’ or ‘scope’, would be meaningless as well. We might rephrase one of Andreas’ own arguments about maps, by saying that some nominalisations are more meaningless than others…

  • Scientific attitude
    To the attitude category, Andreas would like to add ‘A general scientific attitude of curiosity’ which he defines as ‘Trying to understand how someone’s map functions, and how the functioning of the system can be improved.’ Andreas understands that ‘that may also seem somewhat general’, but he refers to the scientific literature for further definition of the term.
    Response: By using the nominalisations ‘curiosity’, ‘understanding’, ‘map’, ‘functioning’ and ‘system’, Andreas demonstrates the point, made in the previous entry, that some nominalisations are - for a given person - less meaningless than others. This being said, we do feel it would be a useful addition to the attitude section. But the term ‘scientific’ would be confusing, since NLP does not apply the quantitative scientific method most people associate with science. One could argue that the general public needs to change their view on science, but we don’t want to bet on that happening in the next few years. So we modified Andreas’ attitude element into: ‘Modelling Orientation, A desire to find out how someone’s map functions, and how that functioning can be improved or transferred to others’, and added that to the list.
  • The skills section
    Andreas has several comments on the skills section.
    Eye Accessing Cues: Since there are also verbal, tonal, and postural cues for detecting modality (in addition to eye movements), he would rename this to Modality Detection.
    While this makes sense conceptually, it would decrease practical recognition by the voters.  We did add ‘As well as verbal, tonal, and postural cues for detecting modality’.

    Future Pace: Andreas suggest to move ‘Future-pace’ to the category of techniques, since it is more than a simple skill, it is a process with multiple steps.
    Response: Agreed.
  • Pseudo-orientation in time and the ‘as if’ frame
    Andreas points out that pseudo-orientation in time and the ‘as if’ frame
    are incorrectly listed as synonyms. Pseudo-orientation in time is a sub-category of the ‘as-if’-frame, since the ‘as if’ frame can exist in space as well as time.
    Response: He’s absolutely right here. We put the ‘as if’ frame first and we added ‘With pseudo-orientation in time as one form’.

  • Deletions
    Andreas suggests to remove several entries from the list, as did many other people. Response: We left them in and we will let the voters decide.
  • Additions
    Andreas suggests the following additions:
      • New Behaviour Generator
      • Last Straw Threshold Pattern
      • Godiva Chocolate Pattern
      • Spinning Feelings to change strong feelings
      • Tempo Shift to change strong feelings
      • Self-concept Model for changing identity.
      • Grief Resolution, Shame Resolution, Guilt Resolution and Anger/Forgiveness process
      • Regret Balancing
      • Transforming Negative Self-Talk protocol 
      • Strategy for Responding to Criticism protocol as a separate entry or a subcategory under the heading Strategies, along with Decision, Motivation, and Learning strategies.
      • Shifting the Importance of Criteria (Values)

Response: We added all of these techniques, with the exception of ‘Self-Concept Model for Changing Identity’ (too generic as a name) and ‘Regret Balancing’ (too rarely encountered), which in our view stood little chance of being voted in.

  • V-K dissociation
    Andreas notes that ‘V-K dissociation Technique’ and ‘Trauma Process’ refer to the same protocol and suggests that we combine them.
    Response: He’s right. We combined them as ‘Trauma Process using V-K Dissociation’.

Brian Van der Horst, part 2
Van der Horst, reacting to our responses to his first contribution, sent us six bibliographic references.

  • For a list of submodality techniques he suggests to read:
      • Heart of the Mind
      • Change Your Mind and Keep the Change|
  • For a list of strategy techniques he suggests we read:
      • Strategies, Brains, Neural Networks, and Cognitive Science: Re-Programming the P of NLP
      • Neural Networks and NLP Strategies - Part 2
      • Neural Networks and NLP Strategies - Part 3
  • For the Lebeau, Gordon, Faulkner and Grinder material. he suggests we read:
      • Phoenix: Therapeutic Patterns of Milton H. Erickson

Response: We looked at the table of contents of ‘Heart of the Mind’. It lists 21 submodality techniques. We could not include all 21, since that would make the list too long. And we had no criteria for selecting any one of those techniques - all are addressing a given content area - over the other ones. Basically, giving us references for books or articles and suggesting we read them and select NLP elements for the voting list, is too non-specific a task to lead to changes in the list. Fortunately for Van der Horst, Andreas already suggested some submodality- and strategy-techniques, most of which we added. Since Andreas is an author of the first two references Van der Horst mentions, we assume that he made an informed selection form the available techniques.

Connirae Andreas, part 2

Andreas points out that it was (probably) Robert Dilts who came up with the definition ‘NLP is the study of the structure of subjective experience’, not her.

She wonders if it would be useful to offer possible criteria for people to use in voting. She mentions two criteria that she uses when she thinks of voting on this subject: 

1) NLP is about the structure of experience, in contrast to the content. 

The more an intervention or method has to do with structure of experience, in contrast to content, the more it can be considered ‘NLP’.

2) NLP has to do with observable or ‘noticeable’ experience, rather than theory.

The more a method has to do with what we can notice in sensory experience (either in our inner experience, or experience in the outside world), the more it can be considered ‘NLP’.

Response: These two criteria are mentioned in ‘Criteria for NLP Techniques’, the first item in section 3B, Techniques. These criteria were partly based on Andreas’ first contribution.

Anneke Meijer, part 2
Anneke helped us by identifying several typo’s and text improvements and reordering of items on the list. 

She also suggested the following additions:

  • Communicating with Parts
  • Gift of Nature Technique
  • Lifeline Reframing
  • Remodeling
  • Criteria Spin

Response: We added all techniques Meijer suggested.


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About the Author Jaap Hollander

Psycholoog, NLP-trainer, Trainer provocatief coachen, schrijver (11 boeken), directeur IEP --- Geeft NLP- en provocatieve workshops en -opleidingen. --- Stond vijf jaar achtereen in de top-500 professionals van ‘Quote’. --- Ontwikkelde MindSonar.

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