I have studied Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) for years. In fact, I just completed another certification in NLP, this one from the American Hypnosis Association as a “Certified Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming.”

A couple of people have pointed out that the Wikipedia page on NLP is pretty damning. It uses phrases like “discredited scientifically”, “no scientific evidence” and “discredited as a pseudoscience by experts”. If you know me, then you would think that would be that. I’m all about an evidence-based approach to pretty much everything and I am usually an outspoken critic of all things pseudoscience. So, I wanted to take a moment to explain myself.

At its core, NLP has some concepts, called “presuppositions” that I tend to agree with:

1. The map is not the territory.
2. We respect each person’s model of the world.
3. Aim to increase choice.
4. People make the best choice they can at the time.
5. People work perfectly.
6. All actions have a purpose.
7. The meaning of your communication is not simply what you intend, but also the response you get.
8. We already have all the resources we need, or we can create them.
9. Mind and Body are connected and form a system.
10. There is no such thing as failure, there is only feedback.
11. The person or element with the most flexibility in a group or system will have the most influence.
12. Modeling successful performance leads to excellence.
13. All processes should lead to integration and wholeness.
14. If you want to understand – Act

There’s more, but if you were trained in just those things, you can see how that would make you more effective at communication. It might make you better at presenting your ideas, better at influencing others, even better at selling ideas or even products to others.

In my opinion, where NLP gets a bad reputation is when people make outlandish claims about the other things it can do. The creators of NLP themselves, Richard Bandler and John Grinder took a great start and later claimed it could, often in a single session, treat problems such as phobias, depression, tic disorders, psychosomatic illnesses, near-sightedness, allergies, common cold, and learning disorders. NLP proponents since then have only made even more outlandish claims.

There is a useful grain of truth at the core of NLP and that shouldn’t get thrown out like a baby with the bathwater. Those skills are valuable and can be used as stepping stones to better communication techniques. But the problem comes when people, often those with monetary interests in selling more NLP, start making claims that are just not supported. Somehow it’s not enough for something like NLP to be good at some things, it has to balloon into a magical solution to many more things.

I’m happy to study the core concepts of NLP and to use them to improve my observation of communication styles and my ability to better adapt to them, but when it gets to timeline techniques that include past lives and genetic memories, I fall squarely into the “it’s a metaphor for something going on in this life” camp. As far as curing the common cold and near-sightedness? I might even laugh out loud a little bit.