Can you analyze and agree at the same time?

What do these words mean to you? The Meta Model classifies them as distortions and generalizations. But to the people who put them on these sticky notes, they represented a very specific shared experience.

Part of the reputation of NLP was established by its approach to language. The Meta Model promises to help you look beneath what people are saying to discover what they really mean. It's based on understanding language as a distortion of reality.

Even if it were accurate (I wouldn't argue that), it's a framing that is almost bound to get you into trouble unless you remember one cardinal rule (most people don't). The rule is this: you can only dig deeper with permission and you can only tell you have permission when you are spending most of your attention building agreement.

As a coach, I sometimes work with high performers on analyzing their patterns of thought or behaviour so that we can identify leverage points for change. This is stressful, but the stress is tolerated by high performers because they are expert enough to assume that there will be points they can strengthen and determined enough to manage the stress in pursuit of improvement.

If you're not dealing with an expert, continually prodding at someone's language is likely to destroy rapport and result in a "challenge" to a "distortion" being met as challenges are usually met: with equal and opposite energy.

Language works best when you are willing to explore how it takes experience and creates a word that allows us to pull that experience into awareness when it will be helpful. The word is a handle, not a mirror. Within a context of shared exploration, the meta model and other analytical tools can be used with a light touch to develop more specific shared understanding.

Most of the time, this is not what people want from the meta model. They are looking for a tool that allows them to reveal what someone else has hidden or distorted. It makes the person being modelled feel self-conscious at best and attacked at worst. 

Like fire and sharp knives, it should be used carefully.


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