NLP jargon buster

An NLP jargon buster is not only essential for a website of this size but is useful for anyone who has an interest in, or is undertaking a study of neuro-linguistic programming, a concept named and developed by John Grinder, Richard Bandler and their disciples.

Our business is infested with idiots who try to impress by using pretentious jargon.

David Ogilvy

The application of simple principles

In all his courses from Practitioner thru to Trainer Training, Richard Bandler emphasises that NLP is about the practical application of simple principles.  

The secret is in using strategies that we know have worked for other people, and, if they don’t work in the present case to try different ones until we find one that works.

On Richard Bandler’s courses the participants learn the various techniques and then practise them until they can perform them successfully.  

They do not undertake written examinations to see if they understand the theory;  NLP is not about theory:  it is about putting principles into effect.

That said, there are a number of terms used in NLP (not the least of which is NLP itself) that require some explanation.

NLP jargon buster - Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP)

Some of the definitions of NLP that I have read seem more difficult to understand than the term itself.  

In simple terms, neuro-linguistic refers to the way our minds process language, and programming  speaks of our ability to process that which we perceive through our five senses.

John Grinder has described NLP as “the study of the structure of subjective experience”;  Richard Bandler has described it as “an attitude and methodology which leave behind a trail of techniques”; and Robert Dilts is reported to have said, “NLP is whatever works”, which you may consider to be the simplest description of all.

For a deeper understanding of NLP you may like to read The Meaning of NLP on this website.

NLP jargon buster – A-B


Accessing cues – Behaviour indicating the representation system a person is thinking with:  e.g. eye movements, voice, body posture and breathing patterns.

Age regression – attention focused on a past experience in trance

Age progression – attention focused on the possibility of a future experience in trance

Anchors – A naturally or intentionally occurring stimulus that sets up a response

As if – To act in a way to pretend that it is true.  It enables the individual to travel beyond apparent obstacles.

Associated state – Seeing an event through your own eyes (as opposed to seeing yourself in the event).


Break state – Doing something else to distract yourself from your present state

Bind – A hypnotic suggestion where the acceptance of one thing is regarded as leading inevitably to something else

Body language – Communication by our body without the use of words or sounds.  We usually mean such things as our gestures, facial appearance and eye accessing cues, for example.

NLP jargon buster – C-D


Calibration – Recognising another person’s state by recognising their non-verbal signals

Cause and effect -The idea that a certain action will produce a particular response in the form of another event.

Chunking – Going up or down a level to change your perception.  Chunk up to a larger level of information; chunk down to be more specific.

Conversational postulate – A question that could be interpreted as a command.  For example:  Have you cooked my dinner?

Congruence – Aligning your beliefs with each other

Complex equivalence – Where one thing is taken to be the same as another.  For example, because someone hasn’t replied to your letter you take that to mean that they are upset with you.


Deletions – The removal of information by the unconscious from conscious awareness

Distortions - The mind’s interpretation of information to turn it into what it expects it to be.

Dissociated state – Seeing yourself in the event rather than through your own eyes


Eye accessing cues – Movements of the eyes which indicate the type of thinking that is occurring

Embedded command – A command inside a longer sentence which may be marked out by tone or emphasis


Future pacing – Mentally rehearsing a future event


Generalisations – Where we take a single experience to represent an entire category (for example, All Englishmen are pompous).


In-time  - Having a time line with the present passing through your body.

NLP jargon buster – K-M


Kinaesthetic – Feelings of all kinds


Lack of referential index – The absence of a direct reference (for example, She drove it.  Who is She and what is it?)

Loops – A metaphor that goes back to its own beginning.  An open loop is an unfinished story.  A closed loop occurs when the story is completed


Meta Model – Grinder and Bandler’s model for detecting generalisations, deletions and distortions

Metaphor- Analogies, stories and parables

Mirroring – Matching another person’s behaviour

Mismatching – The process of breaking rapport

NLP jargon buster – N-R


Nominalisation – A process or verb turned into a noun

Nested loops – A series of stories each commenced in turn with open loops and thereafter closing the loops in reverse order.


Pacing – Matching and mirroring behaviours

Pattern interrupt – Changing a person’s state

Phonological ambiguity – Where two words sound the same but the difference is obvious:  plane/plain;  hear/here

NLP jargon buster

Predicates – Verbs, adverbs and adjectives.

Presuppositions – Assumptions or things we accept as true for these purposes.

Punctuation ambiguity – The merging of two sentences into one


Rapport – Establishing connection and trust with another

Reframing – Changing the perspective to offer a different meaning to the experience.  For example, you could ask how a particular situation might have a different meaning if the context were changed.  Alternatively, you could suggest that there was a different meaning if content was changed.

Representational Systems – The five senses

NLP jargon buster – S-W


Selectional restriction violation – Attributing characteristics to inanimate objects (for example, The television was silent).

Sub-modalities – Consider that our five senses are the modalities.  The sub-modalities are the qualities of those modalities such as the size, colour and position of a picture we envisage.


Time line – A metaphorical way of coding time

TOTE – Test-operate-test-exit – for testing strategies

Through time – Where you can see past, present and future in front of you

Trance – An altered state resulting in concentrated attention.

Transderivational Search – An internal search for meaning by comparing with your own experience


Universal quantifier – A statement that does not permit exceptions (all, every, none)


Well-formed conditions – The conditions for verifying an achievable outcome.

More detailed explanations of a number of these terms will be contained in the numerous articles on this website.

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