Neuro-Linguistic Programming is a personal development system that is built around the idea of studying and modeling examples of excellence. By building models based on people who are excellent we can then teach other people the characteristics of what it takes to reach that level. NLP aims to study subjective experience, the way we interpret the world, so that we can improve ourselves in the process. Like an instruction manual for a new electronic device that explains how to use the various features, NLP is like an instruction manual for the human mind that helps us use its various features.
To understand modeling it is helpful to first think about a map. A map is a representation of an area that strives to lay out the most important information that we ought to know in a logical fashion. A street map has information about the roads of an area, but not the types of animals that live there. If you’re trying to find your way around a new city, that’s the information that is truly important. A map could never contain all of the information in a certain area. In a similar fashion, a model is usually focused on a small segment or activity.
For example, if you want to learn how to become a master teacher it is helpful to build a model for master teaching. To build this model a master teacher would be observed and asked questions of. Everything that master teacher does would try to be clarified and codified so that it could be taught to somebody else. However, you wouldn’t use this model of master teaching if you were trying to become a computer programmer. The information is not transferrable or important once you exit the specific domain it was modeled in.
One of the most well-known NLP models is known as the meta-model. It is a communications model that contains a set of tools to identify how and where information is lost during communication. The way we think and the way we communicate are often very different and because of that difference vital information can be lost or skewed during communication. The meta-model was developed by observing effective psychotherapists and the language they used with their clients to effect change. The model consists of different categories of questions which seek to challenge linguistic distortion, clarify generalization, and find deleted information. By bridging the gap between how we think and how we speak, more effective communication can be developed.
Another model used in NLP is known as the Milton model. It is commonly described as the reverse of the meta-model. Whereas the meta-model aims to clarify distortion and deletions in communication, the Milton model intentionally uses these patterns. It is purposefully general, ambiguous, and metaphoric. The idea is that by utilizing deliberately imprecise language, a person can working through problems at an unconscious or somatic level instead of a cognitive level. Some psychotherapists such as Milton H. Erickson found great success using this technique and thus the model was born. By using vague communication patterns a psychotherapist could more easily establish rapport with a client because more specific language had a higher chance of excluding concepts from a person’s experience.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming is built on the idea of modeling. There are models for belief change, self esteem improvement, detecting incongruence, framing, and rapport. Other models include the Mercedes model for “whole-brain” approach, values theory, and many, many others. By breaking down the characteristics and actions that make excellent people excellent, NLP practitioners hope to open those doors of excellence to everyone.