NLP Language Patterns

Generalisations - NLP secret


NLP language patterns in Bandler and Grinder's Meta Model include Deletion, Distortion and Generalisations.

If it were not for generalisation, we would have difficulty in accomplish much of what we do daily. You know, for example, what a car is.

Generally speaking, it has four wheels, you have been carried in or driven one, and despite the various different models that exist, when you come across one you know what it is. So in that sense generalisation assists us.

All generalisations are false, including this one.

Mark Twain

Universal quantifiers

When we have an unhappy experience or one we describe as “bad”, we are afraid that it will happen again. We come to believe that a single experience can represent an absolute truth.

Generalisations of this kind are known in NLP as universal quantifiers and involve the use of words such as all, never, always, everyone and no-one.

Examples might be: “It always rains in Devon”; “All Yorkshiremen are rude”; “Women always behave like that”; “All men ever think about is sex”; “Journalists are evil”; “Politicians are all in it for themselves”; “Americans think they know it all”; “The British are stuck up”.

More considered thinking would provide better alternatives, but these words eliminate better choices. 

When they are analysed, it is clear that such generalisations are untrue, yet they can be the cause of great bitterness and division between individuals and in society generally. 

If you catch yourself speaking or thinking in this way, pause for a moment and think about it.

Questions to ask about generalisations

Question yourself in this way: Always? Never? Every? What stops you? What happens if you do? Imagine you could; what then? 

Consider how you might be limiting the alternatives that are open to you. Think carefully about what is possible and what is impossible.

NLP Language Patterns – Modal Operators of Possibility

Modal operators of possibility include words such as cannot, possible and impossible.

At the time of writing this page, a 19-year-old young man who stands 6 feet tall and has managed to maintain a weight of just 9 stones, has just won the Epsom Derby in the United Kingdom.

I have heard it said on numerous occasions that “you must be short to race on the flat”. 

I wonder how many times and how many people told that talented young man that it would be impossible for him to race professionally in that way.

Sometimes people limit themselves by their own words. On some occasions they attempt to limit others. 

It is a good job that Joseph O’Brien didn’t believe it was impossible to live his dream!

NLP Language Patterns – Modal Operators of Necessity

You know when a modal operator of necessity is about to hit you because you will hear the words “should” or “shouldn’t”, “must” or “mustn’t”, “ought” or “ought not”.

Inevitably, these patterns of speech go back to some authoritarian figure, perhaps a parent or teacher, deep into childhood or perhaps general social background.

If, in your mind, you speak to yourself in this way, challenge yourself. If you say, for example, “I shouldn’t spend money on this”, ask “Why shouldn’t I spend money on this?” “What would happen if I did?” “What would happen if I didn’t?” “What prevents me from spending money on this?”

People punish and limit themselves unnecessarily by this sort of self-talk or by listening to the voices of others. So always challenge the expression and see where it takes you.

For a more complete discussion of these principles, read also the Meta Model, Deletions and Distortions

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