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Examples of The Meta Model in NLP

This section is to show you some examples of The Meta Model in NLP. We already covered the basis of the Meta Model in the last blog (if you didn’t catch it, just click that last link).


Let’s start with


Somebody says to somebody else, “You don’t like me.” Well, that’s a mind-read, isn’t it?
So what would be the response to that? Well that would be “How do you know I don’t like you?” and what that will do is it recovers the source of the information.

If the comeback from that is, “Well you looked at me funny on Tuesday afternoon in 1973.”
Well now you know what they’re referring to, perhaps you can clear it up.
So with statements of mind-reading like: “You don’t like me” or “Susan doesn’t like me”, the Meta-Model challenge would be, “Well how do you know Susan doesn’t like you?”

Number Two: Lost Performative.
“It’s bad to be inconsistent.”
Well where’s the performer of that? Who’s saying that?
So the response is, “Who says it’s bad? According to whom? How do you know it’s bad? It’s bad to be inconsistent – well how do you know? Who says? which will gather valuable information, recovers the source of the belief and hopefully recovers the performer of that particular statement.

Number Three: Cause and Effect.
“You make me sad.”
Now here’s a counter question to this. Now it’s quite a long one, and
there’s two ways you can answer it. One is: “How does what I’m doing cause you to choose to feel sad?” And the other one could be: “Well, how?”

You could say “How, specifically,” but “How” is quite good.
And what that does is, it recovers the choice. Remembering THEY made
themselves feel sad –  nobody can make anybody feel anything, so they’ve
done a cause and effect violation there. So with the Cause and Effect, that
will get your client back to their own responsibility and it’s normally
going to be an “I” statement, like “Oh, I feel I’m not good enough” or “Oh,
I’m the one who didn’t do the communication,” “Oh I’m the one who’s making me feel sad, it’s nothing to do with you.” They’ll normally come up with that, that will be more truthful than the blame that they’re putting on somebody else.

Number Four: Complex Equivalence.
Now remembering that Complex Equivalence, This means This. Red Light means Stop. And the pattern we’ve got here is “She’s always yelling at me, she doesn’t like me.” The response you’re going to give is “How does her yelling mean that she doesn’t like you? Have you ever yelled at somebody you liked?” Well of course you have. So how does yelling mean this, how does that mean that? In other words she’s saying “this means this”.
You’re saying “Does it? Show me. How does it mean that?”

Number Five: Presuppositions.
“If my husband knew how much I suffered, he wouldn’t do that.” Now there are three presuppositions in this sentence. One is that the person suffers – “I suffer”. Two is that my husband acts in some way, and Three, my husband doesn’t know I suffer.

  1. There are three questions you can ask here. 1. How do you choose to suffer?
    2. How is he acting, or reacting?
    3. How do you know he doesn’t know you suffer?

This is going to get more information.

Now, remembering that there may be another Meta Model pattern that comes up after you ask this question, so you’re still going to be on page 43, in the NLP Manual you’re still going to be using Meta Model to dig and dig and dig.


– in the category of generalisations –

Number Six: Universal Quantifiers.

So these are, such as all, every, never, everyone, no-one, etc.
And here’s one you’ve probably heard quite a few times in your life.
Example: “She never listens to me.” Now, what are you going to challenge in that sentence do you think? If it’s a Universal Quantifier, all, every, no-one… okay? You’re going to challenge the “never”. So you can just say that. You can just say, “Well, never listens to you?” You can also say, “What would happen if she did?” So, “She never listens to you? What would happen if she did?”

Now, that recovers a counter-example’s effects and outcomes, so if you find
out what would happen if she did listen, you might find out what they
really want. You might find out, they’ll find it isn’t true, it isn’t even
true that she “never listens”.

Number Seven: Modal Operators.
You’ve got Modal Operators of Necessity, and Modal Operators of Possibility.
Modal Operators of Necessity as in should, shouldn’t, must, must have, have
to, need to, is necessary. And here’s one example of necessity, and you’ve
probably heard this one too:
“I have to take care of her.”
Okay, so which part are you going to challenge here?
Yes, the bit that’s pushing, which is “have to”.
So to get a counter-example to find out what’s behind this “have to”, you
could say something like, in response, “What would happen if you did, or
what would happen if you didn’t?”
Or you could even say “Or?”
“I have to take care of her… or?”
So this recovers the effects and the outcomes. “I’m interested, what would happen if you didn’t take care of her?”
“Oh well, she would not feel good.” Now you have information about the consequence for your client and their model of the world. 
Perhaps it may be time for adding a reframe now about living other people’s lives or your own?

Let’s have a look at Part B of this, which is the Modal Operators of
Possibility as in can, can’t, will, won’t, may, may not, possible,
impossible. And here’s one I’ve heard many times: “I can’t tell him the truth.” The Modal Operator here is “can’t”, obviously. So you’re going to
challenge that by “Can I ask you a question about that (pause) what prevents you? What’s stopping you?” And also,
“What would happen if you did?” gives the counter-example, and they should come up with a very clean version , and clear version, of what is that
thing that’s stopping them.

Now we go into the category, Deletions.

Number Eight: Nominalisatons
Nominalisations, just to remind you, process words which have been frozen
in time making them look like nouns. An example here is “There is no communication here.” Obviously “communication” is the thing we’re looking at as a nominalisation, and we want to really find out what’s in their world about this word. You’re going to ask, “Who is not communicating to whom?” because you need the information obviously.
And here’s another one which is very graceful, “How would you like to
communicate?” or even “How would you like them to communicate?” This turns it back into a process, recovers the deletion and the referential index about who is doing what to whom.

Ok, let’s go back to my joke a moment ago for number seven Deletions!
Basically, when a person speaks, he/she will not be aware of the whole ‘story’ of an issue that they have stored internally. Therefore they will delete portions of the truth and tell you the bits that they have as their ‘story’ of the truth.

For example, “Sue hurt me” is a simple deletion as we have no idea what kind of ‘hurt’ he/she is talking about. So the challenge would be “How did Sue hurt you?”

B) “I am uncomfortable.”
About what? Whom?
C) “They don’t listen to me.”
Who, specifically, doesn’t listen to you?

Number Nine: Comparative Deletions
Example. “She’s a better person.” 
Well, better than what? Better at what? Compared to what or whom?
Recovering the comparative deletion.

Number Ten: Unspecified Verb
Example: “He rejected me.”
So to get information, you’ll simply ask, “How specifically?” which
specifies the verb.
“He rejected me.” “How, specifically?”
We want to know what happened.
Now, some people, if they said that to someone else, they just put their
arm round them and go “there, there, it’ll be all right. You know, men are
just like that.”
But no! What we want is information, uncovered.

And that’s the whole intention of the Meta Model, to uncover the underlying truth of a persons reality.

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