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The NLP Communication Model...probably the most useful thing I've ever learnt

The NLP Communication model is probably the most useful thing I've ever learnt.

It's a model that explains how we learn and how we process our experience.

It’s like an instruction manual for people. This is how we work.

As a result it’s helpful for

  • Understanding behaviour (yours and other people’s)

  • Understanding how you’re creating your current experience/results

  • Personal change – discovering what options you have to get a different experience / different results

  • Relationships – what you need to know to get on with people better (including yourself).

This blog covers the basics of the model. The related posts describe some of what can be learnt from it and how it can be useful.

The model comes from Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), which basically brings together and summarises various elements of psychology into a very useable form. Given what I have read, the model can now be largely backed up by neuroscience, the science of how the brain works.

So here’s my simple diagram of the model and I’ll walk you through it from left to right.

In it’s most simple terms it shows that we operate a lot like a computer

  • Information - some information comes in

  • Internal Computer - we process it based on our existing programmes, stored data and other variables

  • The Magic Triad - the processing results in some output

  • Behaviour - we use that output to decide what to do

  • Results/Feedback - we get some results / feedback based on what we did.

We use the results we get to learn. Is the result/feedback what we wanted or expected?

  • Yes – keep the programming as it is so we can replicate our results

  • No – change the programming so we get a different result next time we have to process the same information.

Here’s how it works in a bit more detail.


Information comes in via our five senses – for example, what I'm hearing people say, what I’m seeing or reading.

It can also be what I’m already thinking about. It could be imagined information. Our minds don’t differentiate between real and imagined!

Internal computer processing

Just like a computer,

  • Our minds process the information coming in and use data that’s already stored to get to some output as quickly and efficiently as possible.

  • We’ll make connections with existing data we have and ignore bits of information to speed up the process.

Just like a computer, dealing with a new scenario or unfamiliar information requires more effort and perhaps a bit of reprogramming before we can deal with it efficiently.

  • This is why learning or change is more challenging and why we like what’s familiar to us (we can rely on our existing programming).

In terms of what we use for processing – our internal computer contains everything we know, have experienced and have learnt in our lives.

  • Memories/Experience – this is how we establish most of the other things in the processor. Our programmes and stored data are based on what we have learnt over time from our experiences.

  • Values, beliefs and rules – what we’ve decided is important to us, what we believe about ourselves, others and the world and the rules we think should be followed by us and others as a result.

  • Strategies and specific behaviour preferences – how we have learnt to do things – our preferred ways of working (for example, extrovert or introvert).

  • The processing is impacted by other variables like energy and how we are feeling. For example, our processing / how we react when we are full of energy will be different to when we’re really tired or stressed.

OUTPUT – The Magic Triad

We process all the information and come up with an output - the ‘answer’/our interpretation of the input.

The output consists of

  • What we say to ourselves about the input/situation - our ‘opinion’ / what we decide about it

  • How we feel about it, and

  • What happens to our bodies.

And all three are linked, which is why I call them ‘The Magic Triad’. Change one and the other two will change.

For example