It always amazes me that NLP, a field that studies and teaches good communication, uses so much confusing jargon. Including the name “Neuro-Linguistic Programming” itself, of course…
I like jargon — when it’s useful. Words like “submodalities” and “anchor” express distinctions that otherwise might take a paragraph to explain.
However, I object to jargon that causes communication problems.
NLP jargon that causes problems
- Unnecessary jargon makes it harder to communicate with non-NLPers — your clients, for instance. (Why confuse a client with the word “submodalities,” when you can instead specify submodalities such as brightness, loudness, and temperature, and get the client into state?)
- Confusing terms makes it harder for NLPers to communicate with each other. People also find confusing NLP terms difficult to learn and remember. (Quick: is through time when the timeline goes through the person’s body… or is it when the person observes their timeline from outside?)
- Ambiguous jargon omits important distinctions. (If you tell a client to “chunk up” petting dogs, do you want her to consider a larger scope of sensory information, such as petting dogs in more contexts, or over a span of many years? Or do you want her to consider more categories of what to pet, such as cats, plants, and fuzzy blankets? What if you mean one, and she picks the other? Some NLP processes only work if the client chooses the correct option. Vague language may leave the client unsuccessful and the practitioner puzzled why the technique failed.)
- Misleading NLP terms gets NLPers to make potentially inaccurate assumptions. (As Steve Andreas pointed out here, the term “timeline” presupposes a linear time representation. But some people don’t code time in a line. They use time tubes, time panoramas, or other time representations. A NLPer who presupposes a time line may not notice the actual time structure a client uses.)
NLP jargon that works
In my experience, jargon is useful when:
- it adds distinctions not available in ordinary vocabulary (break state, sequential incongruity);
- it provides shortcuts to quickly describe what would otherwise require a long explanation (ecology check, driver submodalities);
- the terms clearly describe their subject matter (Self position and Other position, rather than first position and second position); and
- the terms distinguish related concepts from each other (in time and observe time, rather than in time and through time).
NLP jargon to change
I started eliminating jargon from my own speech because so much NLP terminology confused me, my clients, the NLP students I taught, and non-NLPers.
Since I like words that aid good communication, I suggest:
- Instead of through time, say observe time.
- Instead of 1st position, 2nd position, 3rd position, 4th position, etc., use descriptive names: Self position, Other position, Observer position, Group position…
- Instead of meta-program, say preferred attention strategy. (Most non-NLPers don’t know what “meta” means. The word “program” has so many meanings that “meta-program” could describe almost anything: a computer program, a personal or business strategy, etc.)
- Instead of timeline, say time representation.
What NLP jargon would you like to change?
- What NLP jargon do you hate, and why?
- What term(s) do you prefer to use instead?
Post your ideas and suggestions in the Comments. If I like your idea, I may cite it in the article or post about it.