A discussion in a LinkedIn Group of which I am part recently slammed NLP. It was one of those conversations where people were happy to be certain about what was wrong with something they didn't know and hadn't experienced.
Of course, there's a lot of stuff out there that I don't much like about NLP. Everything from speed seduction to trainers who use the F word in the training room. I don't like the rants, the pseudo-science or the arrogance that has been part of the way NLP has presented itself in the world. I really don't like the disrespect for other approaches and academic disciplines.
It's a little like saying I don't like LinkedIn Groups because some of the discussions sometimes contain opinions that are offensive or insulting.
There are lots of people who use NLP in ways that I find distasteful and more who are just not very good at using the techniques of NLP (all of which come from the observation of techniques in more intellectually respectable fields). It would be easy for me to do what I do and teach what I teach and pretend I found the techniques somewhere that didn't connect back to magic and speed seduction and hard-sell sales approaches. It wouldn't be more honest. Although I could have found these practices in lots of places, I did find them in NLP.
You, whoever you are, have influence just by being in the world. As much as you may think you have no power, you never practice manipulation, and you wouldn't dream of shaping the behaviour of the people around you, you are already doing all those things. It's inevitable. Read the science on priming, and you will begin to understand that we all make a difference in the lives and thinking of the people around us.
The choice is not whether or not you will manipulate and influence. It is whether or not you will be intentional in the way you do it.
Everyone who uses NLP does so to change the results they get in dealing with other people. Some people change themselves and some people shift the attention of other people. This is deliberate. They know they are being influential and they are willing to make whatever arrangements in their beliefs and ethics are necessary to allow them to be manipulative. Some of them have beliefs and ethics that are very different than my own.
Everyone who does therapy, coaching, teaching, managing, selling, or academic research also has the intention of making other people think or act differently as a result of their own thinking and actions. Lots of them focus on words that make them believe they are not responsible for the results they get. This is not less manipulative. It may be less ethical, since they are able to achieve the results without owning up to their own role in achieving them.
The difference between practicing NLP and using your credentials to gain access to people who would not otherwise take you seriously is that practicing NLP involves you step by step, choice by choice, in realizing that you are manipulating someone else's perception of reality.