Meta Model

Meta ModelThe NLP Meta Model is a theraputic technique you can use to help understand other people's problems or help them understand their own problems better. Literally, the Meta Model means to deconstruct what someone is saying so you can find the underlying cause of the problem.

It is often the case, that when someone has a problem, they unconsciously already know what the solution is. It is also often the case that they do not like the obvious solution, so they keep stirring the problem in hopes that a new, better solution will come up. This is very common in relationship problems. The Meta Model is designed to deconstruct the way someone words their problem, to get to the bottom of it. For example:

Jim: Bro, my girlfriend can be SO annoying sometimes!
Basic Response: Why, what's she doing?

This response (perhaps incorrectly) assumes the girlfriend is doing something specific to annoy Jim. To get into the Meta Model, the response must make as few assumptions as possible.

Jim: Bro, my girlfriend can be SO annoying sometimes!
Meta Response: What exactly is happening when you find yourself feeling the most annoyed?

Deep Structure and Surface Structure

The reason we must make as few assumptions as possible, is that communication is not a clear-cut procedure. When we communicate, it stems from various prompts such as emotions and memories, (deep structure) and sent through a web of cognitive processes before it leaves the speaker's mouth (surface structure). Therefore it stands to reason that it is not easy to 100% effectively communicate the exact message we want to convey.

For example, if I was talking to a friend who I feel is being unreasonable about paying for his share of a meal, and I want communicate it:

  1. My amigdala registers a feeling of unfairness and mild negativity
  2. My Thalamus notices this emotion, matches it with (blames it on) the current situation, sends it to the hypothalamus for processing
  3. The hypothalamus now bounces these emotions between the prefrontal cortex (which makes us conscious of the emotion), the hippocampus (to match it up with past memories of this particular friend and other instances of this situation), and the frontal lobes (which make decisions on how to act). This produces a snowball effect until I have either decided to take action or leave it.
  4. When the prefrontal cortex has decided that it will take action (ie I have decided I will say something to my friend) the frontal lobes produce myriad further synaptic connections to decide specifically how to act, until I decide to say something in a joking manner, hoping my friend will take the hint.
  5. This command is sent to the temporal lobes which construct a draft sentence which bounces back and forth between the limbic system and frontal lobes until I have a suitable sentence.
  6. The temporal lobes will send messages to the brainstem by way of the basal ganglia to get the body to actually grin and say the words "Next time, I'M going to order a lobster you cheap-ass SOB! Haha!"
  7. I'll now watch for his body language and response to register how effective my communication was.

You can see that although I got a little carried away there, I have written this in a very basic way! In reality there were millions upon millions of neurons firing to create that one little sentence. So you can see how easy it is to miscommunicate, and how difficult a task our brain has to interpret these deep-set emotions (deep structure) into verbal communication (surface structure).

So the key to the Meta Model is trying to deconstruct what the person is saying until we can really start getting into the deep structure.

Next NLP Technique: Presuppositions

Further Reading: Regions of the Brain