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Meta Model language patterns

Our nlp diploma courses and nlp practitioner courses will cover the meta model.The nlp meta model of questioning is an other fascinating tool which will help you get to the core of any situation.Giving you a new type of questioning to find the answers you or your clients need to make those changes and keep the change.

Our language is the very magic that connects us as human beings. As we live in the sea of language, the words we use become generalised. For many of us, these words are the sign posts to our different responses. At times language works in seemingly magical ways; sometimes a single word can set off an argument, cause families to fall out, break years of friendship and create wars with unnecessary destruction and sorrow. Yet, when we believe that what we are hearing is true, words can lift our expectations, rekindle relationships, bring overwhelming joy and happiness to our lives. The Meta Model came about following the many years Dr Richard Bandler and John Grinder spent in the company of Virginia Satia (a family therapist). After intense research, Bandler and Grinder produced the first book about the structure of language. The book, entitled "The Structure of Magic Vol 1", was dedicated to Virginia Satia, and from this book came the "Meta Model". Bandler and Grinder believed that in order to find a solution to the client's problems, you needed to be specific and be aware of the language that the client used.

The "Meta Model" is a tool that can help people to reconnect to what is known as the "Deep Structure". As people communicate, there will always be Deletion, Distortion and Generalisations. These unconscious filters are in use in our everyday language, and they will become obvious once you have mastered the "Meta Model". You will hear what is limiting or resourceful in people’s language; this creates their model of the world.

Surface Structure

Our language is missing large parts of information. This is because our conversations would be too long, specific and tiresome, so we delete lots of this information as it is unnecessary. Leaving out this information can and will be generalised and create habits of deletion, which in turn shapes our model of the world. The statement:

" The window is broken " (surface structure) is missing large parts of infomation that will lead to the deep structure.

Chunking Down

This will start the process to reconnect the surface structure to the deep structure.

Meta Model Questions.

There is even more infomation that has been deleted from these statements above. You may ask yourself, "Was it John's sister, brother or friend that pushed him over?" If you didn't think it was John's brother, sister, friend or anybody else, then possibilities have been deleted. What is the age of the person who is asking the questions? Was it a man or a woman? Whatever choice you have made, there will be distortions. Did you think it was his brother? If so, then you have generalised because, in general, girls don't push their brothers over. All these questions help to get the information that is required to lead to the Deep Structure.

Deep Structure

The deep structure signifies the complete experience.

"People have always told me I won't be successful."

In this statement, finding out exactly who the people are, or who the person is that the client is referring to, is missing. There is also "universal quantifiers" (always, people). The client is experiencing the situation in their mind, (unconsciously) at that time, in the past. The experience is not happening in the now. What exactly is the behaviour that other people think you are not capable of doing? (This brings to mind what behaviour they could do.) It sounds like you have been successful in believing that limiting belief. This type of question and reply will help the client to begin to reconnect to the "Deep Structure", which will begin to change their model of the world as they think of new possibilities.

The Meta Model

Deletion, Generalization and Distortion

The Meta Model consists of 13 patterns divided into 3 categories.


  • Universal Quantifiers
  • Modal Operator of Necessity
  • Modal Operator of Possibility
  • Generalizations

    Universal Quantifiers.

    Never, always, only, few, people.

    " She never listens to me. "

    " Never? Not even a little bit? "

    Modal Operators

    This indicates our mode of response.

    Modal of Necessity

    People that live in necessity mode tend to experience life with lots of pressure, stress and negativity (have to, got to, must, should, definitely). When a client operates from necessity, they delete consequences.

    Example:" I must consider the feelings of others."

    " What will happen if you don’t?"

    Modal Operators of Possibility

    People who live their life in possibility mode look for possibilities, take action and pursue their dreams (can, may, want to, get to, possibly)

    " I can’t do that! "

    " What would make it possible?"

    " I couldn’t tell them. "

    " How can you make it possible to tell them?"

    " I find it impossible to relax. "

    "What would make it possible? "

    "It’s not possible to be positive. "

    "Is it possible for you to see a time when you were positive? What were you doing? "

    Fritz Pearls, the founder of Gestalt Therapy, would tell his clients,

    " Don’t say I can’t, say I won’t. "

    Within Distortions

  • Mind Reading
  • Lost Performative
  • Cause and Effect
  • Complex Equivalents
  • Presuppositions

  • Distortions

    Mind Reading

    Mind Reading is when people think they know what others are thinking or feeling and how they will behave.

    "I just know what she is thinking. I can tell just by the way she stands! She’s that type of person who holds a grudge. "

    Example of challenge:

    "How many other people do you know that stand in that way and don’t hold a grudge?"

    Mind Reading is assumption of thoughts without evidence, believing they are true (guessing).

    Lost Performative

    Evaluative statement with the speaker deleted or unknown.

    "It’s stupid to act like that."

    Example of challenge :

    "According to whom?"

    Lost performative statements refer to judgements or beliefs, where the speaker has not been identified whose belief or judgement it is.

    Cause and Effect


    "My wife’s frown makes me feel angry."

    In this statement, the cause is the frown and the effect is the feeling of anger. This cause and effect statement, informs us that the husband has possibly unconsciously learnt that seeing his wife’s frown triggers off the feeling of anger (visual anchor). Challenge:

    "How does your wife’s behaviour cause you to get angry?"

    Within every cause and effect statement lies a...

    Complex Equivalence


    "I just need more confidence to be satisfied with my work."

    Confidence equates or means satisfaction which will change her capabilities at work. In a Complex Equivalence you have a nominalization that someone has equated to a behaviour or another nominalization.


    Simple Deletions

  • Simple Deletions
  • Unspecified Verbs
  • Comparative Deletions
  • Lack of referential index
  • Nominalizations
  • "They don’t like me."

    "Who specifically doesn’t like you?"(Recovers deletion)

    "People think I’m stupid."

    "Who specifically thinks you’re stupid?"(Recovers deletion)

    Comparative Deletions

    "She’s a better person than me."

    "Who specifically are you comparing yourself to, and how are they better?"

    Unspecified Verbs

    "He rejected me."

    "How specifically"(specifies verb)

    Lack of referential index

    "I don’t like negative people."

    "Negative about what, in what way and specifically who?"



    Nominalization refers to naming (as in nominate) or giving names to actions or ongoing events. Nominalizations delete the process. When we use nominalizations, our model of the world becomes static or permanent. Nominalizations create a world of stillness and lead us to believe that things won’t change and there’s nothing we can do about it. It also freezes our power to change.


    "Life is complicated.”


    "Living has its complications."

    Nominalizations create nouns out of verbs, but they are not things at all. We use these words as if they are tangible and solid. Sometimes, people talk about them as if they have been lost.


    "I just can’t find my confidence."

    Nominalizations hide an underlying action and can cast spells of white magic or cast spells of incredibly limiting maps. A nominalization is the result of a verb being turned into an abstract noun.

    Nominalizations are incredibly powerful but because they are abstract, they often hide vast differences between maps of the world (values and beliefs). Nominalizations cannot be seen, touched or heard and have no taste or smell. People will fight and die in the name of these abstract nouns because of what they mean to them. To challenge a nominalization, turn the noun (love) into a verb (loving) and remember that a nominalization has an underlying, hidden action.


    "I’ve always been sad, as far back as I can remember.


    Knowing the direction of that behaviour of sadness means there is an opportunity for change.

    "My belief is that nothing will work."


    "How will believing that, bring a positive outcome?"

    "I just know my depression is here to stay."


    "What are you depressed about?"

    "What I need is my confidence back."


    "What can you see yourself doing confidently in the future?"


    Presuppositions are linguistic assumptions and are useful for recognising what is assumed by the client's words. Korzybski noticed the effect of 'cultural' language on the nervous system, in the 'IS' of prediction. Presuppositions refer to ideas and beliefs that we assume from the beginning as being true and real. We hold presuppositions as truth and importance. We presuppose words are real and objective. The difference between a mind read and a presupposition is that mind reads assume knowledge of internal states whereas presuppositions refer to ideas and beliefs.

    Our nlp diploma courses and our nlp practitioner courses will cover the meta model.All of our nlp courses are accredited.

    Cliff Partridge
    HNLP Trainer
    NLP Master Practitioner