The Meta Model is at the foundation of NLP and was the first tool set for transformation developed by Richard and John. It has been used in every industry from therapy, business, science to space travel and product innovation. Many NLPers seem to get caught up in the stimulus-response approach to employing the Meta-Model in their life. Yet this immensely powerful tool has been enhanced and developed many times since it codification in the Structure of Magic 1.
This article provides five powerful tips to help you master your skill with the Meta-Model and move beyond the pattern of stimulus-response challenge often seen amongst new NLPers.
1. The Terms are the least important aspect
The first thing to get as a new person to NLP is the terms such as semantic ill-formedness, normalizations, trasndeveriational search etc are the least important things to get. You don't need to know them off by memory. You need to ask yourself which would you prefer to be able to be able to use the tools powerfully or to name the terms?
Focusing on how you are becoming more skillful each and every day using the Meta-Model is far more useful than being a "NLP junkie" who can recite chapter and verse of SOM1/2 (Structure of Magic) yet can't use the model effectively.
2. Let go of the rules!
Don't get caught up in challenging every well-formedness violation you hear. At the beginning to putting the Meta-Model into action you are going to miss lots of things and that is OK. Equally a common practice is "I spotted one!" game where you challenge any and every violation you here. Neither is very helpful.
With practice and time you will become more adept at hearing what is important and letting go of the need to challenge everything you hear. Focus instead on getting the outcome you want which is to intelligently and intentionally move the client towards the end goal that they want.
3. Stay out of the content
When you work with a client (wheather that is a friend who is "stuck" or a paid client), make sure you are in an uptime state listening attentively to identify the key structures in their communication such as major presuppositions, cause and effect statements, Universals, complex equivalents etc. A good practice I have found when learning to get good is to simply listen to a friend share a problem they are having and just listen to identify what are the two or three major violations they keep using/repeating. For example they may be using lots of Universals (All, Every, Only etc) or making an action word (verb) into a static thing (noun) .. also known as normalizing.
4. Go for the largest chunks first
When you start listening to your client and are beginning to ask a question, remember that each question will influence and direct their consciousness.
Therefore to ensure you don't get caught in a meta-model muddle, go for the large chunks first and be very aware of the presuppostions in your own language (so that you are leading the person down a path you want them to go).
There is little point if your client says "my mother hates me", replying "hates you, how specifically? or "according to whom?". When using the Meta-Model you will want to start off like a plane flying at 15,000 feet, high enough up to have a broad view of the land (clients problem structure) below so you can get a very good understanding of how the terrain is laid out before you swoop down and do specific intervention.
By going after the high level chunks of the clients problem first, you will get a much better understanding as to how they are holding or representing the problem in their mind and most importantly what is inside or outside their map/model that would be welcoming or resistant to any proposed change. Richard Bandler often uses the "How do you know?" question or "so what?" response to the above type statements.
5. Stay out of the content, but remember the content is important aswell.
Statement three may seem in conflict with statement five, however both tips live together. In the beginging of learning how to work with clients, it is a good idea to avoid getting caught up in the content of a persons communication and missing out on what is really going on to create the problem space. However when you work with people, being able to attend to the content, to notice what they don't say is often more important is what they do.
Clients typically do not have a good idea of what or how they have the problem that they perceive they do. By listening to the what they say you can often infer and identify areas outside their map or model that are key to creating a solution that will work for them. They key word is infer and you need to know when you are inferring something by testing. As you get really good at using the Meta-Model you will begin to utilize the match between information and intuition. The tools will provide you with key information to understand and be able to change their problem from within. Your intuition with experience will help you to know where and how opportunities to do so arise.
Master Trainer Michael Breen has a great question that keeps in mind when working with clients: "What has to be present in this persons world view in order for this (behaviour) to be the right response?
This will give you some ideas about areas to expand your questioning and identify resources and patterns of thought that may require adjusting.
Making it Practical:
In part two of this article I will be covering five more tips to help you enhance and master the use of the Meta-Model. For now review how you use the meta-model and identify how you will use anyting you have learned here to improve your effectiveness.
Choose two suggestions and employ them in your work and life. Feel free to leave a comment below or ask any questions you want.