Article written by L. Michael Hall PhD and Shawn Dwyer ~

The failure to thoroughly learn the Meta-Model as the basic NLP Communication Model is one of the biggest challenges we have in getting coaches prepared. It is also the biggest problem we have in helping people become truly professional in their communication skills.

As written in the book on the Meta-Model, Communication Magic (1997/ 2001), the Meta-Model is the key to everything in NLP.  And if you do not thoroughly know it, you do not understand very much about NLP. Whatever NLP pattern that you love and use regularly is a result of the Meta-Model. Why then should you memorize the Meta-Model Questions? 

1) Meta-Model first to have access to the most powerful questions in the world and have them at ready access. 

These are powerful questions even though at first glance they do not seem very powerful. What’s so powerful about them? The power is in using them to get to specificity. So it is not the case that you ask one question and that’s it. You use the question repeatedly and you use multiple Meta-Model questions to chase down the reference and meaning of a person. By memorizing the list of 18 questions (as you did with the WFO questions), you will create a repertoire of powerful questions.

2) To have a more complete understanding of how language and meaning works.

We use words to think, to conceptualize, to reason and to both construct meaning and to convey meaning to others. Yet how does that work? How is it that our linguistics enable us to do all of that? This is where understanding the NLP Communication Model comes in – and the Meta-Model Questions summarize that understanding. This is also where “the map is not the territory” premise comes in. What you say about anything- your words, is just that, words. It is a mental map about something that you are referring to in the world. But what?  What are you or your client referring to? Ah, that is the question. If you don’t question yourself or your client- and just assume that you understand (the Understanding Bias), then you will learn nothing.  That’s a great formula for feeling comfortable in ignorance.

3) To facilitate a conversation of precision and clarity.

Because words are loaded and are often false (pseudo-words), you and I can easily be bamboozled by words. We can be hypnotized by sentences that we (or our clients) utter as we assume they are real and fail to question them. Conversely, when you know how to ruthlessly examine linguistics (your own and your client’s), you can create clarity and precision of thought. And when that happens- magic happens.  That’s why the original NLP books were titled, The Structure of Magic, referring to the magical way that Fritz and Virginia and Milton used language.

4) To be able to quickly meta-model the experience of your client.

When NLP began, the Meta-Model was the only tool that they had for modeling. Yet with it, and from it, all of the other NLP models and tools were developed. Think about how amazing that is. This means that as they learned how to truly listen for language distinctions and ask challenging questions about it, they were able to pull apart the structure of subjective experiences. “Coaching as Modeling Clients,” that is precisely what an expert coach is able to do with a client. That, in the information gathering stage of coaching- long before any intervention is attempted- the coach comes to understand the client’s current experience on the client’s terms.

5) To be able to more effectively facilitate the desired changes which your client wants. 

When it comes to detecting, recognizing, and then using the leverage points of change in your clients- it is almost always language that tells the story. That is one thing that Bandler and Pucelik discovered as they were doing “Gestalt” in the early days- they recognized how Perls would like for some of the key phrases that he was attuned to and how that his responses to those phrases would often create the magic of change. Later, the same happened with Virginia. From these John Grinder then introduced Transformational Grammar and so the Meta-Model was invented (for more about that history, see NLP Secrets: Untold Stories).

Memorizing a list of questions may be one of the last things that you want to do. I understand. Most of us have not had a positive experience with regard to memorizing. Yet as you know, when you have memorized a poem, a song, a pledge, a verse, etc., then you have an internal resource inside you that no one can take away- and that’s at ready access whenever you need it.

Here then is my challenge to any and all who want to be truly professional Meta-Coaches –

              * Memorize the Meta-Model Questions.

              * Memorize the Well-Formed Outcome Questions.

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