The Meta model is a model for changing our maps of the world. It provides a number of problem solving strategies. We cause many of our problems by our unconscious rule governed behavior.
We have problems not because the world isn’t rich enough, but because our maps aren’t. Alfred Korzybski’s work demonstrated that we don’t operate on the world directly but through our maps or models
This model is the foundation of NLP. It evolved from watching extraordinary therapists and the kinds of interactions they had with clients that got results.
Our nervous system deletes and distorts whole portions of reality in order to make the world manageable. Our maps determine our behavioral options by creating rules and programs for how we do things.
We delete information to avoid being overwhelmed. We don’t see all the choices we have available. We attend to our priorities and overlook other things that might be valuable.
We generalize information in order to summarize and synthesize. Dealing with categories is much less demanding than dealing with individual cases. For example, we talk about dogs as a category rather than all the individual dogs that we have met.
Lastly we distort information, for instance when we plan or visualize the future.
How we build the maps that control our behavior
We use three universal modeling processes to build our maps or models. The Meta model uses these three processes. Its terminology is from the field of linguistics and may seem quite strange.
We pay attention to some parts of our experiences and not others. The millions of sights, sounds, smells and feelings in the external environment and our internal world would overwhelm us if we didn’t delete most of them.
Deleting enables us for instance to talk on the phone in the middle of a crowded room. We tune in to what is important like hearing our name mentioned at a party. We are also deleting information when we think of ourselves as having limited choices. We often overlook problem-solving strategies that recover deleted choices.
- Unspecified Nouns – Who or What
- Unspecified Verbs – Understanding the Process
- Simple deletions
- Comparative deletions
- Ly Adverbs – Obviously this is Useful
We categorize and summarize in order to manage our experience. We do this by choosing a representative experience, so one particular dog (real or a combination) will represent our category of dogs.
Generalizing enables us to transfer learning from one area to another. We learn the doorknob principle and use it to open doors we’ve never seen before.
- Universal quantifiers – a Meta Model Generalization
- Modal operators – a Meta Model Generalization
- Complex equivalences – a Meta model generalization
Our ability to distort experiences enables us to imagine new things and plan for the future. Distortion is useful in planning a trip, choosing new clothes and decorating a room.
On the other hand, distortions probably cause us the most problems. It can be limiting when we imagine negative events and become unresourceful. For instance, jealousy can be a response to imagining a partner being unfaithful and then responding as though it is real.
- Nominalizations – Recipe for Misunderstanding
- Mind reading – Jumping to Conclusions
- Cause effects – How our world works
- Lost Performatives – Not my Beliefs
- Linguistic Presuppositions – Accepting What I Say
Using the Model
This model provides a way to recover deleted information, uncover our rules and untangle misunderstandings in our own and others’ communication. It is particularly useful in business communication where clear unambiguous directions can be critical.
Meta model questions
The model is the questions. By listening for how someone has created his or her maps, we can ask an appropriate question to recover what has been deleted, generalized or distorted. This then expands and enriches the person’s choices for solving the problem.
Further Reading: The Secrets of Magic by L.Michael Hall reprinted as Communication Magic