It’s many years since I contributed to the second edition of An ABC of NLP. I had not long returned from California where I met John Grinder, Robert Dilts, and some of the other pioneers of NeuroLinguistic Programing. Joe Sinclair had written a slim volume on the subject of NLP based upon his own course notes, made as he struggled to understand this exciting new discipline. His was a brave effort, but it was clear to both of us that the original text had dated in the six years since the original book was published.

Joe asked me if I would be prepared to up-date his work, and over the summer of 1997 I painstakingly worked to do so. It started as a labor of love, became a challenge, and finally was a source of some pride when I saw it in its glossy re-designed cover. Some years later I came across a copy of An ABC of NLP in the British Council Library in Istanbul. It was well thumbed, and had been taken out more times than any other book on the subject in the section.


Can this  NLP book help you?

How often have you wished, whilst studying NLP, that you had beside you a systematic, up-to-date, easily accessible reference work that communicates the basic NLP ideas and concepts more readily than other works on the subject?

NLP has been described as the modelling of excellence. You do not need to be an excellent trainer, practitioner, or teacher of NLP in order to be an excellent communicator of NLP. You do need to possess writing skills, however, if you are to communicate by way of the written word. Author Joseph Sinclair has a proven track record as an excellent communicator, and this expanded and revised edition of An ABC of NLP has been produced in response to requests from the many delighted readers of the first edition.

In his introduction to the first edition Michael Mallows wrote: “For people who know nothing about NLP this is an undemanding introduction and a pleasant read. For those with a middling grasp the ABC offers an overview and a broader perspective. Old hands will find it a useful browse and a handy reminder.”

The inclusion of the many updated and expanded entries by Stephen Bray will gratify readers in the second and third of Michael Mallows’ three categories of readers.

And, as with the first edition, An ABC of NLP is not intended to replace any other book on the subject of NLP, but you could do a whole lot worse than keep it by your side whilst reading those other books.

What people write:

“An ABC of NLP is unlike any other NLP book I have read. At first sight it seems to be a glossary of NLP jargon. Closer examination reveals that it is packed with useful information about how to apply NLP in therapy, business and life. It is written from a humanistic perspective and explains NLP terms in simple language. It also reveals the important concepts that must inform NLP if it is to be used to positive effect. A delightful example of this may be found under the section ‘Human Activity System’ where a comparison is made between the choices open to a frog from the animal kingdom and a prince from the human realm when faced with a hungry predator. The book is illustrated with pertinent cartoons and will delight complete beginners and experienced devotees of NLP. I was surprised to find that what initially may be mistaken for a dictionary was such a compulsive read”.

Tony Parsons ~ The Connections Magazines

A brave project – to succinctly define NLP patois or jargon. It’s amazing how we in NLP claim to be communication experts – yet speak in a jargon that is unintelligible to ordinary mortals! Does the book succeed? Yes, and it’s a handy book to have nearby to answer the questions of those awkward who want things explained in simple terms…

Reg Connolly – Active Mind-Body Health

“The map is not the territory – or was it ‘the map is not the therapy’? Be that as it may, I approached this slim volume with all my NLP filters in place. I also brought my information organization luggage, which was soon unpacked and discarded as unhelpful . . .

“The book contains a sometimes understated humour which I found delightful . . . The cartoons are well drawn and have a certain politically incorrect robustness that might offend – or might not, depending whose map the reader is on.

“It proves an interesting read, a very different perspective to my own. Although not a definitive answer as a dictionary of basic terminology, it offers a useful back-up if you are on the same wave-length as the author. Mind you, if you were not on the same wave-length, it might prove an even more effective resource.”

Keith V. Trickey, NLP World.

“I would have welcomed this book at any time in the twelve years that I have been using and teaching NLP, and will certainly recommend it to my workshop participants.

“For people who know nothing about NLP, this is an undemanding introduction and a pleasant read. For those with a middling grasp, the ABC offers an overview and a broader perspective. Old hands will find it a useful browse and a handy reminder.”

Michael J. Mallows, Groupvine Magazine.

“I found the explanations clear and easily understandable . . . I very much enjoyed the supplementary information that [the cartoons] contributed to his words. Joe clearly has a sense of humor and using his book will be pleasurable as well as useful.”

Elizabeth Hendry, Group Relations.


Some sample extracts from: an ABC of NLP
by Joseph Sinclair with Stephen Bray
illustrations by ALB


In learning, we proceed from (1) unconscious incompetence to (2) conscious incompetence, then through (3) conscious competence to (4) unconscious competence.

four stages of learning from an abc of nlp

Thus we begin at a level where we are unaware of our incompetence (e.g. a child unable to walk) to a level where our incompetence enters our consciousness (the child recognises that others around it are walking, but is as yet unable to emulate them). Conscious competence arrives with the child’s first faltering steps and only becomes unconscious competence when it finally walks without having to concentrate on the act of walking.

The same four stages apply to the learning of any skill. A patterned response, which has been stabilised at the level of unconscious competence is known as an engram. These engrams are beneficial if they involve automatic activities which are useful, but also comprise activities which are automatic and pernicious, such as addictive behaviour.

NLP can teach us how to reinforce those patterns which we like, and how to change the harmful or unsatisfactory patterns by changing our mental state.

[See: State, State of Excellence]

Four Stages of Learning


Simple learning is making a habit of a simple response. It is also known as stimulus-response. Learning our name, responding to it when it is called, is an example of habit learning. Adding numbers at a simple level, i.e. without trying to understand what they may represent at a higher level, is another instance of simple learning. Complex learning, also known as cognitive memory learning, involves the “how”, “what” and “why” of our learning, associating the learning with intellectual or emotional response.

[See: Anchoring, Learning Four Stages Of ]

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