Book Summaries

The Secrets of Magic by L.Michael Hall

The Secrets of Magic has been updated and extended into Communication Magic. This summary is for the previous out of print version.

Check out Communication Magic at Amazon

Who is this book for?

The Secrets of Magic by Dr Michael Hall is not a beginner’s book on communication. Unless you are fairly familiar with NLP, you would probably not find a container to put these ideas into. It is a powerful book on using The Meta Model, which is the foundation of NLP. As humans, we can overlook the basics and want to move on to the new shiny stuff.

It is an in-depth explanation of the way we build our maps and models using communication (and how other people do the same)

Building Maps of Reality

Why “magic”? When you know how the system works, you can find and use leverage points to radically change the system. To someone who doesn’t know, the changes seem magical – like a cigarette lighter to a cave man.

The Secrets of Magic shows how we create our maps and models through language, and gives us the leverage points to change them. Both Chomsky and Korzybski’s work with language show how we build our perception of reality. We don’t operate on reality so much as our map of reality. See The Map is not the Territory

This means that if we have problems, it is usually because there is a problem with our maps. Our whole process of learning involves constructing a kind of map or schema, so we know how to do something.

Why Build a Map?

Every second millions of pieces of information bombard us. Our nervous systems could not possibly process them all (let alone our conscious minds). So, as a first line of defense, we delete most of it. Next, we summarize and generalize a good portion of the rest. We then distort the remaining bit to fit into our current maps.

Meaning is inside, not in words and symbols

How we make sense of things, how we represent the things that happen to us is personal to us. The words and symbols we use to describe it to someone else are completely different. I’ve attached many experiences and examples to my word for dog – it is my meaning.

We use two different kinds of language. There is the purely descriptive language – what we see, hear, feel, taste and smell. Then there is evaluative language about the values and meanings we give to things.

14 ways we delete, generalize and distort to create our maps


  1. Simple deletions –  (People scare me)
  2. Unspecified Nouns and Unspecified Verbs – (My father scares me) – A reduced version of an experience.
  3. Superlative and Comparative deletions – (He is better, faster) – Compared to what? With respect to what?
  4. Unspecified processes – adjectives (you always give stupid examples) – What is the process of stupidity?
  5. unspecified processes –Ly Adverbs (unfortunately, he forgot my birthday) – a judgment or a state of mind

Generalizations – categorizing and summarizing

  1. Universal quantifiers – all, every, none
  2. Modal operators – necessity, desire, possibility and impossibility. (Thing you have to or want to do, things that are possible or impossible)
  3. Lost Performatives – Rules for life made up by someone else

Distortions – causation, meanings and associations. Values, states and beliefs about the state of others and what causes them

  1. Nominalizations – Creates a fixed, static, unmoving, permanent and finished world that sends deceptive messages to our brains.
  2. Mind reading– we need to check out our guesses.
    • The detailed process of how we know person’s mind intentions and motives is missing
    • We generalize that others have the same basic thoughts, emotions and intentions as we do.
  3. Cause effects– our beliefs about causation
    • We delete the connection between the two.
    • We generalize how things work in causing one thing to another
  4. Complex equivalences– how people construct beliefs out of their generalizations
    • How we created the equation between two items on different logical levels is missing.
    • We generalize how things work
  5. Linguistic Presuppositions – assumptions about reality that we don’t question

When we talk to other people, we usually fill in bits with our own maps, understandings and meanings

The miracle question

Psychology and medicine have tended to get us stuck in “why”. This keeps us locked into a problem state. By asking different kinds of questions, we can access a solution state.

If you miraculously solved your problem, how would you know? How would things be different? What would you do differently? What would life be like the day after the miracle?

Grinders Precision Model

John Grinder developed a shortcut version of the Meta Model, using our five fingers as prompts. It addresses the most important communication problems.

  • Unspecified nouns and verbs
  • Modal operators
  • Universal quantifiers
  • Comparative deletions

This model includes

  1. Useful frames to improve communication
    • An outcome frame – focuses resources, standards of relevance and efficiency to organize information.
    • Backtrack frame to verify a shared map or context for the next step.
    • As if frame – similar to the miracle question. By acting as if you had already solved the problem you gain information about the solution.
  2. Procedures
    • Evidence question – what will you accept as evidence?
    • Difference question What is the difference between the present and desired state
    • Efficiency challenge to stop wasting time on non-feasible alternatives.
    • Relevancy frame – how is this relevant to the outcome.
    • Recycle frame — digging for hidden material in words and phrases.
    • Missing Link – how will that achieve what we want?

The Extended Meta Model

The Secrets of Magic extends the main Meta model categories, by going back to Korzybski’s original work on General Semantics and non Aristotelian logic (Did I say this isn’t a beginners book?) to include:

  1. over and under defined terms – thinking our definitions are real
  2. delusional verbal splits – splitting reality into parts with language
  3. Either or terms and phrases – excludes interaction between the two (both and)
  4. Multi-ordinality – You can use nominalizations at many different levels of abstraction.
  5. Static or signal words – using words as signals
  6. Pseudo words – non-referencing words that are really processes.
  7. identity and identification – sameness never occurs, only similarity
  8. Personalizing and emotionalizing using metaphors and values

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