NLP patterns are basically tools. They’re a way of helping us to understand how we experience the world, and more importantly, a way of changing that if it’s not working out so well for us. Here are fifteen of the more common patterns and processes.
Check your understanding by repeating back what somebody’s just said using their own words and their tone of voice and their gestures, if appropriate. A great skill for negotiation.
We can experience a memory or an emotional state from the inside (association) or view it like an external observer (disassociation). Both have their uses. If you want to capture a resourceful state, such as confidence, associating yourself to another time when you’ve felt confident will enable you to reproduce those feelings in the present. If you want to put some distance between yourself and an unpleasant memory, then viewing it in a disassociated way will help to remove the emotion.
3. Accessing Cues
An NLP classic! Bodily movements which reveal something of the way in which we tend to think, either visual, auditory or kinaesthetic (feeling). Most famously, this has been associated with eye movement – looking up to the right or left tends to indicate that someone is seeing something in their mind – but voice tone, breathing patterns and bodily posture can give the same clues. A melodic, mid-paced, rhythmic voice tone, for instance, is often associated with an auditory style of thinking. Once you’ve got to grips with accessing cues, you can increase rapport with other people by matching their preferred style of thinking – “I see what you mean/hear what you say/know just how you feel” etc.
4. Meta Model
We all tend to speak in shorthand – the Meta Model is a way of finding out what’s not being said. For example, somebody might say “I never get a fair break”. The Meta Model response would be to ask for specific examples, pin down exactly what the person means by “a fair break”, and perhaps find times when they have been treated fairly. Politely and sensitively, of course!
5. Milton Model
The opposite of the Meta Model. If that model is ruthless in its pursuit of specifics, the Milton Model is deliberately and artfully vague. This allows the listener the freedom to interpret what is being said in a way that means something to them personally – “there will have been times when you’ve felt fairly treated…”. Named after Milton H. Erickson. Most modern hypnotists use the Milton Model to induce trance and make therapeutic suggestions.
You can break information and experience down into smaller chunks, place it like a jigsaw piece into a larger chunk, and even compare it to another chunk of information. This is a useful skill to have, as it shows you new ways of looking at things. Relaxation, for instance, can be seen as lots of specific things that make you feel relaxed (chunking down), part of the general category of “feeling good” (chunking up), or as one of many ways of helping you to work more effectively (chunking across).
A sensory trigger for a feeling, that can happen accidentally (a certain perfume transporting you back to your childhood) or created deliberately (squeezing your earlobe whilst feeling very confident, so that you can re-create that confidence when you need it by squeezing your earlobe again).
Anything which conveys a message that one thing is like another – stories, jokes, puns, similes or anecdotes are all metaphors. A way of conveying useful information without preaching. You can also develop rapport with other people by listening out for the metaphors they use and matching them appropriately.
9. Neurological Levels
Robert Dilts developed the concept of different levels of experience – environment (what’s around us), behavior (what we do), capability (what we’re able to do), belief (what we think we can or should do) and identity (what we think we are). Changing one level can profoundly affect the others. Decluttering your desk means you do more work, increasing your ability to finish projects, making you believe that you can see things through to completion, so that you come to see yourself as someone who can achieve great things.
10. Simple Reframes
Putting a different interpretation on an experience. Nicotine, for example, can be reframed from “stress reliever” to “toxic stimulant”, a bad day at work can be reframed as a sign that it’s time for you to find a better job, and so on.
11. Six Step Reframes
A way of changing a behavior by identifying the part of the mind controlling it, separating out the positive intent behind it, and engaging the creative part of the mind to find better ways to meet the same purpose.
12. Parts Integration
Part of you wants to call it night, part of you wants to carry on and drink the bar dry. Parts integration means resolving this inner conflict, often through a Six Step Reframe (see above).
Sensory words that provide clues to a person’s style of thinking – see what I mean, sounds about right, feels OK to me, etc.
The ultimate NLP pattern – a sequence of events that lead to an inevitable result. Strategies can be helpful (the things you do that lead you to make a great speech) or unhelpful (the things you do that make you vomit with fear before giving a speech). Once a strategy has been identified, it can be changed to make it more helpful.
Test, Operation, Test, Exit. Basically, deciding on a desired outcome, testing how close your current situation comes to it, doing something to close the gap (the “operation”), and testing again until you reach that outcome, at which point you can stop testing.
Given the constraints of my blog space and your attention, this was always going to be a rough guide to NLP patterns. Once you’re familiar with the basic ideas, however, there’s lots of information available to help you explore further, and I’ll certainly be writing more about these concepts as time goes on.