Clarifying Ambiguous Language – the NLP Meta Model

Quite often when we talk, we make assumptions in the language we use. The meta-model allows us to see patterns in the language, and phrases to test those assumptions. If these patterns are used deliberately then they can be used to influence – so knowing how to challenge them allows the receiver the ability to reduce that influence.


NLP Meta Model Pattern Examples you may hear Questions to gather more information You Partner
Simple Deletion I’ve been out


Where have you specifically been?

What do you want help with?

Unspecified verbs She annoyed me How specifically did she annoy you?    
Judgement You’re Wrong Who says so and what are the facts?    
Comparison She’s better than I am Better than you?    
Normalisation Our Relationship is not working
Change is Easy
How do we not relate to each other?

Changing what is easy?

Possibilities I can’t … it’s not possible What stops you? Is that true?    
Necessity We have to do this … we should, ought to What would happen if we didn’t?

Who says we should?

Universal Quantifiers He never thinks about my feelings

We always do it this way

Never, ever?

Every single time? What would happen if we did it differently?

Complex Equivalence With a name like that, he must be popular How does having this name mean that he’s popular?    
Mind Reading You’re going to love this How do you know that?

Who says?

Cause and Effect His voice makes me angry

I made her feel awful

How does his voice make you angry?

How exactly did you do that?


(Adapted from Toby & Kate McCartney)

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