Chunking Up, Down and Sideways to Make Your Message More Persuasive

by Lou

In NLP we have something called “Meta Programs.” These are filters that determine how you perceive the world around you. They have a major influence on how you communicate with others and how you behave.

There are many types of Meta Programs (about sixty), but some are more powerful than others. The one I like to talk to you about today is called “Specific/General” (or Abstract).

In order to persuade the most people, we need to give the specific details and to also give the big picture of whatever it is you’re selling: a product, a service or an idea.

One way of doing this is to use a technique called “Chunking.” With chunking we ask ourselves three types of questions to get the specifics and the big picture.

Here they are:


  • CHUNK UP (to the general): What is this an example of? How can this change people’s lives? How can this change a community?
  • CHUNK DOWN (to the specific): What is an example of this? What is the process? How is it made? How did it originate?
  • CHUNK SIDEWAYS (to the abstract): What is this like? What metaphors come to mind?

I’m looking at a red bandana/handkerchief on my desk. Let’s say I want to sell red bandanas. I’ll ask the chunking questions:

1. CHUNK UP…“What is this an example of?” It could be a type of tool that I should always have in my possession? “How can this change people’s lives?” A bandana couldn’t really change people’s lives, but it could save them as a tourniquet perhaps or if a person is stranded somewhere, he or she could use it as a signaling device.

2. CHUNK DOWN… “How is it made?” I would find out how many cotton threads there are and how that is superior to others. I would find out how they were manufactured and include that information. “How did it originate?” Here I might include a brief story of how the cowboys and gold miners in the Old West started to use them.

3. CHUNK SIDEWAYS…”What is this like?” I might use a metaphor saying a bandana is like an old friend always ready to help you out when you need him. Or a tool you should always keep handy.

Once I had all this information and wanted to create an advertisement, I might use one of the copywriting formulas like AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action), PPPP (Promise, Picture, Proof, Push) or AHEXBA (Attraction, Hold Attention, Excite, Belief change, Action).

If I were giving a presentation, I’d put each chunk on a separate slide.

So, think about your product, service or idea. Apply the three chunks to make your offer more specific, more general and more abstract and watch how much more persuasive your message becomes.

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