The Minimalist Guide to the NLP Meta Model

by Lou

For anybody interested in NLP, the Meta Model is an incredible tool and is often the first thing taught on NLP certification courses. It’s ideal in clarifying thinking, deframing limiting beliefs, and showing how a person’s thought processes are affecting his or her behavior. Problem is, it can be quite complicated to master.

A few years ago, Genie LaBorde (based on the work of John Grinder) came up with a simplified version of the Meta Model she called “The Five Pointers”.

These represent the deletions, generalizations and distortions common in communication that create confusion, ambiguity, interpretations (rather than observations), and assumptions.

1. NOUNS (QUESTION: What, specifically? or Who, specifically?)

2. VERBS (QUESTION: How, specifically?)

3. RULES (QUESTION: What would happen if…?)

4. ALL (QUESTION: All…?, Every…? Never…?)

5. COMPARISONS (QUESTION: Better than what? Compared to what?)

She called them the Five Pointers because she attached each one with a finger in order to learn them faster and have a quicker reaction time when coming across a Meta Model violation. The index finger represented the nouns, middle finger the verbs, ring finger rules, little finger all, and the thumb represented comparisons.

You might want to try it. Place both hands flat on the table. Raise your left index finger and say “Nouns”. Then raise your right index finger and say “What, noun specifically?” Repeat a few times and go on to your next finger, the middle finger. Do the same thing. Raise your left middle finger, say “Verbs”. Then raise your right middle finger and say, “How, specifically?” Keep doing that until you finish with your thumb.

Once you’ve done this exercise, you’ll be surprised that you can catch and respond to Meta Model violations quickly and easily?

Let’s take a look at the following statement. It’s full of violations.

“They say climate change is going to destroy the world in a few years.”

How would you tackle this belief? Where would you start first?

Genie LaBorde recommends that we go after the unspecified nouns first. So for the above statement, we could ask, “Who specifically says climate change will destroy the world?” Another noun is “climate change”. Which climate change specifically will destroy the world?” We could move on to the unspecified verb, destroy. “How specifically will the world be destroyed?”

If somebody said the following to you, how would you apply The Pointers?

1. “Everybody hates me.”

2. “That’ll never work.”

3. “He’s a better man for the job.”

4. “We should leave.”

The Meta-Model and The Five Pointers can bring your communication skills to crystal clear clarity. The problem is that the vast majority of people who study it, don’t really put it to use. It’s a vital tool for communicating and understanding all the people you deal with in your life. That’s a lot of responsibility. But professional communicators such as lawyers, doctors, psychiatrists, etc. get the results they do because they use it all the time.


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