5 uses of the meta model
The Meta Model may have been born from the field of therapy circa 1971 to 1973, but since then it has evolved and been developed to be used in a variety of different context, here are just five of it’s most powerful:

1. Critical Thinking

Critical thinking can be defined as “disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence.”

One could say that the main purpose of the Meta Model is to encourage critical thinking and to get a person to consider and explore their thought process, thereby helping you create more clear thing skills.

2. Coaching

Probably the main use of the Meta Model outside of therapy is within the field of Coaching. Michael Breen, the NLP Master Trainer, who has been one of the key people in updating the Meta Model, uses it primarily in the field of coaching and corporate consultancy. The Meta Model gives the coach an excellent tool set, in addition to whatever coaching model they are using, to help the client evaluate their own thinking.

3. Problem Solving

As Einstein said “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”

The Meta Model provides an excellent way to change your level of thinking – to think about how you are thinking, thereby finding solutions to seemingly unfreeze the problem. You can linguistically reconstruct the problem into a more meaningful statement.

4. Teaching and Training

According to the Critical Thinking Community, “the oldest, and still the most powerful, teaching tactic for fostering critical thinking is Socratic teaching. In Socratic teaching we focus on giving students questions, not answers.”

Using the Meta Model as template to explore how the student is coming to the conclusion they are, what evidence and presuppositions they using and asking them to explore alternatives.

I use the Meta Model to foster a Socratic style of learning within my NLP and Coaching training courses.

5. Sales

A lot of people think the secret to sales is to have the “gift of the gab” – knowing the right things to say to convince someone they really need what you are selling. In actual fact a good sale person will take the time to understand the clients needs, requirements and limitations – knowing the right questions to ask.

To learn more, take a look at “The Meta Model Demystified”, available now at Amazon.

The Meta Model Demystified

Last Friday I had the pleasure of talking to Donna Blinston on the NLP View internet radio show about The Meta Model Demystified.

As is always the case, the half an hour disappeared in the blink of an eye and there was so much more to talk about, but I did have the opportunity to discuss the some of the philosophy behind the Meta Model and how I have taken the time effort to explain it in a simple and  useable way. You can listen to a replay of the show on YouTube below.

You can buy the book, currently available exclusively on Kindle, here.

Meta Model Bingo!One of the very best ways to learn the Meta Model, when you are just starting out, is to listen out for people using the patterns (as they exist in everyday language) and getting used to coding and tracking them.

And one of the best ways to learn anything is to have fun doing it. With those two points in mind, I introduce to you META MODEL BINGO!

Hints and Tips for Using the Meta Model Bingo Cards

  1. Download the pdf Bingo sheet by clicking on the image above or by clicking here.
  2. Review and revise the Meta Model Patterns (get “The Meta Model Demystified” here), if useful make a note of what they are and maybe some examples on each one (for a shortcut, get my flashcards here).
  3. Carry around a Bingo card with you, as often as you want, and either literally or mentally mark off each pattern as you hear them occur.

Remember, the labels are really the least important thing and most utterances will contain more than one pattern (either explicitly or implied), the idea of using the Meta Model Bingo card is to get used to tracking language and breaking it down into manageable chunks; to get used to noticing where people make unuseful generalisations, distortions and deletions. Making into it a Bingo game also, hopefully, reminds you that this is best used in a light hearted and fun manner. The more you enjoy yourself, the more easily you will learn.

The Meta Model is much more than just churning out rote learnt questions in a hope you may stumble across an appropriate response. You need to formulate your question for the appropriate situations, this means you have to take 3 things into account.

  1. The Statement itself
  2. The Context in which the statement is made
  3. The Outcome you are after

When learning the Meta model you would have come across lots of “Language Patterns” and suggested ways of challenging them, but if you just took the patterns you may end up asking totally the wrong question and ending up somewhere you don’t want to be.

An Example of How NOT to Use the Meta Model

Let me give you an example, if you were to hear “Well, people say I am no good at…”, if you just worked with the statement, you would probably want to ask “Which people?” or “Who says?”. Which is perfectly fine, however you may not want or need to know about the people at this moment in time. This could end up with the client just moaning about people and then you have wandered way off the issue. This is a common problem with the Meta Model that I have noticed, by just using “knee jerk” questions to certain comments or phrases, without considering the context or the outcome you can end up going round and round and round and round and round in circles!

A Suggested Process for Using the Meta Model More Effectively

Before you even begin, find out what the client wants, get it well defined and anchor it. This will directionalise your conversation. Make sure you are clear about the context in which they want to make the change and then and only then listen to the patterns of their language. This will help you ask the most appropriate question at the most appropriate time.

Learn more about how to use the Meta Model effectively to create conversational change here.

I have heard it said by several people I have spoken to (one a very experienced NLP Trainer no less) that the Meta Model is “JUST chunking down” and all the language patterns etc are unnecessary and confuse the issue.

When I hear people tell me the Meta Model is “just chunking down”, then I suspect two things:

  1. The person doesn’t understand the Meta Model
  2. The person doesn’t understand chunking

The Meta Model is an incredible tool to create conversational change and to use it to “just chunk down” is not only misunderstanding it, but using it for it’s most trivial application. Chunking down, or gathering more information, may or may not be useful depending on the situation you are in.

To quote Richard Bandler in the “The Structure of Magic“, artful use of the Meta Model can:

“…involve the client in recovering the deep structure – the full linguistic representation. The next step is to challenge the deep structure in such a way to enrich it.”

Recovering and enriching the deep structure is not about chunking down, it is about asking appropriate questions to explore the persons map of the world (deep structure) and make them aware of things they have generalised, distorted or deleted. To do this you may need to chunk up, chunk down or even chunk laterally. If you just chunk down, you tend to get A LOT of information, some of which may be useful, some may just confuse the issue.

An Example of Using the Meta Model to Chunk Up

Let us use the example of “I find it hard to take the bin bags out on a Monday morning”. You need to help the client recover the deep structure of this “belief” about themselves. To do this you would probably want to check that the issue is in fact bin bags (that they are at the right “chunk level”). A perfect legitimate question to ask from a Meta Model perspective (but not the ONLY question or the RIGHT question), could be “Is it just bin bags?” (challenging the implied (Universal) Quantifier). Now, is this chunking down? No. It is in fact chunking up.

If in this example, I chose to “chunk down” before clarifying the issue by chunking up, I could ask the often over-quoted and misunderstood question “What specifically about bin bags is the problem?” (this takes you to a very specific part of the persons map that may or may not be where you need to go…). This would get you absolutely loads of information, it would be the proverbial can of worms. Then you would have to sort through all that information to find out what is relevant or not.

So you can either chunk up or chunk down with the Meta Model and which way you go depends very much what context you are in.

Learn more about the Meta Model and how to use it effectively with my new book “The Meta Model Demystified”.

There are two ways to learn the NLP Meta Model:

  1. By rote
  2. By understanding the principles that sit behind it.

The Meta Model is one of the most difficult and infuriating areas of NLP to master, and I can understand why so many people opt for the rote learning route. To begin with it seems simple and gives you massive results. Taking the time and effort to really learn the principles behind the Meta Model can be hard work and time consuming, but, if you make the effort you will be rewarded much more than just learning a handful of questions.

1. Learning the Meta Model By Rote

Learning by rote seems easier, but limits you to asking the same old questions and hoping for the best. Do any of these sound familiar:

“What specifically?”

“How would you know if it isn’t true?”

“What would it be like if you could?”

To begin with, by using these stock questions, you will see a marked improvements in your ability to persuade, to gather information and to facilitate change. But, if you stick to just churning out the same questions parrot fashion you will never progress or improve, all you will do is churn out the same old questions you have been taught parrot fashion.

The Meta Model is is sadly often taught by rote, as it is easier that way and gives the students a false sense of competency without forcing them into the uncomfortable area of “learning…”.

In the short term, learning a bunch of stimulus/response, stock questions may help you, but in the long term it will simply hamstring your efforts to become a more effective communicator. It is much like the technique based approach that some NLPers and NLP training organisations use. The techniques are great until they don’t work for you. Then what do you do? If you don’t understand the methodology behind the techniques you are stuck. If you do understand the methodology, well, you don’t need to the techniques in the first place!

2. Learning the Meta Model from the Inside Out

Taking the effort to learn the Meta Model from the inside out is hard work. You will have to delve into linguistics and logic in much more detail, you will have to relearn or revise the rules of grammar, you will at times want to chuck it all out of the window and go and do the stimulus response parrot fashion approach (I know, I have been there, several times!).

However, if you take the time you will not need to remember all the “right” questions, you will naturally and spontaneously ask the most appropriate question at the most appropriate time to get the most appropriate result.

To begin with it will be harder, but it will be worth it in the end. Your communication will seem more natural and you will become one of those people that other people want to be around, as problems will just melt away.

To learn more about how to learn the Meta Model from the inside out, click here.

For a long time I have been concerned that there is a problem in NLP…

The Meta Model, the most powerful pattern that NLP has developed is poorly taught, poorly understood and poorly used.

Which is such a shame, as the Meta Model is the most powerful pattern in NLP. With it you can become a master communicator and your ability and understanding the rest of the model of NLP will grow exponentially.

Richard Bandler says that NLP is like a photocopy, the further you get from the original source the worse the quality becomes. This is no truer than in the Meta Model, where misunderstanding and misinterpretations have been handed down time after time.

There have been very few attempts to clarify the Meta Model or frame it in a more useful and comprehensible manner, and many NLP books and trainings regurgitate the same old stuff from outdated and outmoded source material.

This 29-page eBooklet is my attempt to undo this confusion and present the Meta Model in a way that is clear to understand and, most importantly, use correctly.

It is not intended to be a complete discussion on all the patterns, but an easy to understand primer to help you either learn it for the first time, revise what you know or undo any un-useful associations so that you can relearn the Meta Model in a more useful way.

It contains:

  • An understanding of the origins and theory of the Milton Model.
  • A history of the Meta Model – putting it in context.
  • How language creates reality.
  • An understanding of basic grammar.
  • Identifying generalisations, distortions and deletions
  • A list of the Classic Patterns in an accessible way.
  • Hints and tips to improve your skill at using the Meta Model.
  • Much more…

The usual price  is£15.99 (+ VAT). But if you buy BEFORE 31st August for the very special introductory price of £9.99

You can get it here.

polya patterns

The term Polya Patterns are thrown around in NLP and often associated to the Sleight of Mouth Patterns and talked about as “yes sets” but what are they really and who was Polya?

George Polya was a mathematician (much the same as Alfred Korzybski, the developer of General Semantics)  at Princeton who was curious about how people became to believe something if it wasn’t provable (and lets be honest, very few things are 100% provable). He referred to this ability to believe in something as “plausibility”, he wanted to see how things became so plausible, that at some point it becomes “true” for that person (they believe in it).

Polya Patterns of Plausable Inference

He described six patterns of plausibly (I have simplified the description to remove the complex mathematics. If you love maths feel free to dig out a copy the book these came from: “Mathematics and Plausible Reasoning, Volume II: Patterns of Plausible Inference: Patterns of Plausible Inference v. 2”):

1. The Meta Pattern: Probability

The likelihood that something will occur again based on its past performance. The more something occurs the more we will tend to believe it will occur again (the sun coming up for example).

Also, if something which is not very probably occurs it tends to validate the case-effect belief which predicted it (pressing the button more often gets the lift to come quicker)

2. Verification of a Consequence

If a particular belief (B) implies a particular consequence and we verify the consequence (C) than it makes the believe more plausible.

If B implies C and C is true then B is more credible.

3. Contingency

If a belief presupposes some event or phenomenon and we verify this contingent event then it makes the belief more plausible.

Polya’s example is about criminal defence or prosecution and is believed to have committed it, and that crime needs a contingent event and that event is proven to have happened it makes it more plausible that the person committed the crime.

Say someone is accused of holding up a store with a gun and the prosecution demonstrates the person has a gun, then the possibility that they they held up the store seems more plausible.

4. Inference from Analogy

A believe (b) is more plausible if an analogous conjecture is proven true.

This is where we draw comparisons to things that appear related, but aren’t.

Animal testing is the classic analogy. In fact much of science is based on analogous testing…

5. Disprove the Converse

The plausibility of a belief increases is a rival conjecture is disproved.

This is the classic argumental process that the philosopher Nietzsche would use. He would rubbish the challenging conjecture and then provide his own. His own was often no more plausible, but because he has rubbished the alternative his appeared more plausible.

6. Comparison With Random

If the belief can be shown to be able to predict results better than random guessing then it is more credible.

Why Learn and Apply These Polya Patterns?

Understanding how a belief can be generated allows us to explore and (if appropriate) challenge, change or reinforce that belief.

The Polya Patterns fit neatly into the Meta Model patterns of “Cause and Effect” and “Complex Equivalence” and are the foundation of Robert Dilts “Sleight of Mouth” Patterns.

To learn much more about these Polya Patterns and how we can use them in practice, book on my “NLP Master Practitioner Training“.

Or, if you want to revise your skills with the Meta Model, Polya Patterns and Sleight of Mouth, click here to see my “Advanced Language Mastery” cards. Or puchase them below:

Advanced Language Mastery Volume I: Meta Model and Milton Model

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Advanced Language Mastery Volume II: Polya Patterns and Sleight of Mouth

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Advanced Language Mastery Volume I and II

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In a running theme on this blog, here is another TV show I think NLPers should be watching:


It is currently showing here in the UK on Sky 2. Sadly, it was cancelled after just 13 episodes, but you can pick up a region 1 DVD of the series from Amazon (I don’t know if they intend to release it in other regions).

The whole show has similarities with the stories Richard Bandler tells about working with clients in the 1970’s. The lead character Dr Jack Gallagher, a psychiatrist, utilises seemingly unconventional techniques and processes such as re-enacting a court case, or hypnotising a patient (which seems to still be somewhat controversial in America) to help the patients deal with their presenting issues (or “curing them” if you want to use the medical model).

In last weeks episode on Sky 2, “Obsessively Yours” (episode 7) Jack Gallagher demonstrated beautifully how to utilise the Meta Model in a conversational, non invasive and, most importantly, none idiotic way to win over a colleague who disagreed with his analysis and suggested treatment.

A recommended watch, no matter what field you utilise NLP in.


When we make a statement or comment, it is the conclusion of a complex thought process and a claim to knowledge. What is your evidence base for that knowledge?