NLP Language Patterns

The Meta Model - NLP Secret

The Meta Model

NLP language patterns in this sense come from The Meta Model which Richard Bandler and John Grinder developed as a result of modelling. 

Those who are interested in studying their work in detail might like to buy The Structure of Magic by Bandler & Grinder where there is a detailed technical exposition of the subject. 


The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place

George Bernard Shaw


They studied the techniques of the celebrated family therapist, Virginia Satir, Milton H Erickson, the father of hypnotism in modern times, and Gregory Bateson and were able to discern that although these people claimed to act intuitively in the course of their work, in fact there were predictable elements in what each of them did. 

Milton H Erickson commented: “In reading this book I learned a great deal about the things that I’ve done without knowing about them.”

NLP language patterns – identifying ambiguities

Our experiences of the world are obtained through what is known as sensory information, that is to say, information received through all of our senses and interpreted through our own specific internal map. 

We identify those senses as auditory or hearing, visual or seeing, gustatory or tasting, olfactory or smelling and kinaesthetic or feeling. 

The words we speak to describe our experiences are known as the surface structure. 

But at a deeper level, known as the deep structure, we subject ourselves to deletion, distortion and generalisation. From there the surface structure is created.

Our words are just a symbol or model of our experience; they do not describe the whole picture. We think differently from each other.

NLP language patterns – thinking differently

John La Valle tells the story of a wife who asks her husband, "Could you please go shopping for me and buy one carton of milk, and if they have avocados, get six.

A short time later the husband returns home with six cartons of milk.

His wife says:  "Why did you buy six cartons of milk?"

He replied:  "They had avocados."

If English is not your first language, you may have to think about this for a moment or two.

Now think about this one.  Salim, who had just left school, attended for a job interview. The interviewer started with a simple general question: “How many days in the week begin with T?” “Two” replied Salim. “What are they?” asked the interviewer. “Today and tomorrow” said Salim.

The interviewer turned to arithmetic. “How many seconds are there in a year?” “Twelve” replied Salim. “Twelve”, said the interviewer, “how do you work that out?” “Easy”, said Salim, “January second, February second, March second …”

Finally, the interviewer turned to spelling: “All right. How many Ds are there in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer?” 

There was a very long pause. Finally, Salim replied “One hundred and three”. The interviewer was aghast. “Where do you get that from?”

“Da da da da da da dah. Dah da da da dah dah dah. Dah da ……..” **

Challenging inaccuracies

An important purpose of the Metal Model is to challenge incomplete or inaccurate statements and help people recover the correct meaning. 

So by helping people to be more specific and to speak more precisely, it can help them to be more constructive about their particular experiences.

Challenging gently

If you don’t want to fall out with your friends, colleagues and clients rather quickly, it is essential to make sure that when you challenge their generalisations, distortions and deletions you make sure you are in rapport with them and that you do so in a helpful and useful way. 

The last thing you wish to sound like is 
a prosecutor or inquisitor.

Now go to NLP language patterns DeletionsDistortions and Generalisationand learn more about the NLP Meta Model.


** A version of this metaphor appears in “The Magic of Metaphor” by Nick Owen


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