The NLP Meta Model is a linguistic tool that enables the practitioner to recognise the thoughts and feelings which lie beneath a person’s conversations. NLP Meta Model was developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, and first published in The Structure of Magic, Volume 1in 1975.
Why develop Meta Model skill?
It improves our ability to better understand people and what’s behind their problem behaviours.
It helps identify how best to motivate colleagues, children, spouses, friends etc.
Communicate clearly and unambiguously.
Assist people in finding their own solutions to difficult situations they are in.
Different ‘Models of the World’
We each experience the world differently i.e. that we each experience events around us differently.
Each person’s senses are developed differently, pertaining to their environment and values inculcated through their family, religion, culture, region, work and neighbourhood. In thinking, a person filters the incoming data from the world, creating a selective internal version of reality.
For instance: If a score of people witness a road accident and are then interviewed individually about it, there will be at least a dozen different versions of that event (accident).
Some of these witnesses would have paid more attention to what they saw, while some would be more focused on what they heard. The incident may have evoked emotions in some. And in some, the accident would have arose an unemotional and factual version of the event.
However, most people assume that everyone experiences the world exactly as they do – and build a lot of expectations and assumptions on this fallacy.
The Meta Model is based upon the three universal modelling processes of distortion, generalisation and deletion, forming an internal representation (a map) in pictures, sounds, feelings, tastes and smells. The maps that we make in our minds are not the world itself but an internal representation of it. The quote, ‘Map is not the Territory’, originally coined by Alfred Korybsky, forms the basis of the Meta Model.
For example: If a husband fails to wish his wife on her birthday, the wife assumes that her husband doesn’t love her anymore. This thinking falls under the category, Distortion.
The NLP Meta Model has three universal categories:
Distortion is the process of taking information through your senses and then playing with that information in your mind to create new concepts and understandings by constructing, planning, manipulating the so called reality.
Generalisation is the process by which you take an element of your model of the world and use it to represent an entire category of experience.
For example: having one bad experience with a member of one religion does not mean that all the people who share that religion are the same.
Having one rough experience with a call center person does not mean the company is fraud, yet when people create these types of generalizations, it may limit rather than enhance their lives.
Deletion is the process of a conscious or an unconscious attention to the information. It is clearly impossible to pay attention to all the information that impacts your senses. At some level of awareness you have to choose what to pay attention to. By choosing to focus on some aspect of relevant information you naturally have to delete other information.
For example: To hear someone in a crowded room you may have to concentrate on the speaker and not listen to other conversations.
Another example: while driving a car in heavy traffic you may need to focus on the road ahead than the scenery that passes you by.
At times deletion may be useful yet in other contexts it may cause an impoverished experience.
For example: if you delete good things that people say to you and do for you, and instead focus on what they did not do or say, then you may feel unloved which can attack your self esteem.
How to use this?
Simply ask friends and colleagues about their experience – and note how that differs from your own. Listen to how people describe a situation or an event and to the presuppositions or assumptions in their descriptions.