What is the Meta Model?
The meta-model is a linguistic model developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, which enables us to ask questions based on our clients’ language. The process helps our clients fill in deletions and check distortions and generalisations in the way they process information – leading them to achieve significantly better results in many areas of their lives.
Meta Model questions are a simple questioning technique that prompts the clients to explore and clarify their mental maps, recover and confront information they may be avoiding or forgetting, and re-check their assumptions and generalisations.
What is the Meta Model used for?
The meta-model significantly improves our ability to ask good questions. There are two main benefits for our clients when we use these questions:
- It helps our clients think through their own challenges and opportunities and come up with significantly better solutions without us making any further interventions.
- Asking meta-model questions enables us to get much more accurate information from our clients, which we can then use in developing NLP strategies and models can develop to help the existing client, as well as ourselves and other clients, improve what they do.
There are three significant benefits for the practitioner (us!) in using the meta model:
- We’re asking questions based on our client’s language, not their content. So we don’t have to understand their content.
- The approach stops our clients from over-influencing us. We can maintain rapport while neither agreeing nor disagreeing with what our clients say.
- Practising the meta-model will significantly improve your ability to ask transformational questions.
What do we use in conjunction with the Meta Model?
The meta-model can be used in conjunction with, or as a part of, almost every NLP technique that requires eliciting accurate information.
However, we’re particularly keen to use the approach when we’re asking our clients to clarify ‘where they are now?’ We do this in conjunction with daily questions, feed-forward and comparing our clients’ results against established KPIs.
Tips when using the Meta Model
The meta-model is a potent questioning approach and, like many powerful approaches, can really upset people when used without care. We need to establish a good level of rapport and may need to use ‘softeners’ first, for example: “May I ask some questions that could be difficult to answer at first? I’ve found they often get beneficial results.” Getting a client’s permission first can significantly affect how well the meta-model works.
We recommend that you practise until you can ask these questions without having to (consciously) think first and without hesitation. When we’ve mastered this, we can give our full attention to our clients and read their reactions – which will help us know what to do next.
Meta Model patterns and NLP Meta Model examples
As mentioned, we want to become spontaneous in asking these questions so that our attention is on how our client responds. We’re not thinking of the next question. It’s about having a full awareness of our client’s verbal and nonverbal responses that lets us know where to go next.
Typical questions are:
- How? What? When? Where? Who Specifically?
- Who Says? According to Whom?
- Everybody? Always? Never? Nobody? Nothing?
- All? No one?
- What do you mean by that?
- Compared to whom? Compared to what?
- How do you know?
- What stops you? What would happen if you could? How do you stop yourself?
- What would happen if you did? What would happen if you didn’t?
- And? Tell me more.
We’ve included a free link to a complete PDF list of 14 patterns: 14 Meta Model Language Patterns pdfs.
Suggested Meta Model Exercise
Practice asking clients, “Where are you now?” using the following :
- What are you doing now to achieve your end goal?
- What are you doing now to sabotage yourself in achieving your end goal?
- What feedback have you received from your stakeholders?
- Are you happy that I run a feedback exercise with your stakeholders to elicit their views?
For many people, the Meta Model is the most critical part of NLP. It’s worth rehearsing and re-rehearsing the exercises above…
We now know where we want to get to (there); we know where we are now. So, the following section looks at How do to get there?
Michael explains how to elicit the client’s starting point in this video.
Full NLP Techniques List
NLP Coaching Section Index
1: NLP Coaching Introduction
2: Success system and model
3: NLP coaching model
4: Beginning frame
5: States and anchors
6: End goals and direction
8: Where are you
9: Getting to there
10: Mental rehearsal
11: End frame
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