Growth Strategy #64: The Meta-Model

Growth Strategy #64: The Meta-Model

As a trained master practitioner of neuro-linguistic programming, my understanding and application of this model assists me with uncovering and understanding the root cause of my client's problems or challenges.

During coaching, I used a range of questions to explore their model of the world, especially limiting beliefs.  Many of which can be attributed to this approach.

Good For: Identifying and challenging limiting beliefs
Best used by: You or a trained practitioner

The Meta-Model is a framework that was developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the 1970s, as part of their study of the language patterns of successful therapists. It is based on the idea that language is not a direct reflection of reality, but rather a representation of reality that is shaped by our beliefs, values, and experiences.

When we speak or write, we use language patterns that can either limit or expand our understanding of the world around us. The Meta-Model helps us to identify and challenge these limiting language patterns, allowing us to expand our thinking and behavior.

Everyone has language patterns, that are formed through a combination of environmental, social, and individual factors. From an early age, we learn to make sense of the world around us through the use of language, and we develop language patterns based on our experiences, cultural background, and interactions with others.

One of the key factors that shape our language patterns is our environment. The language that we are exposed to growing up, whether it be at home, in school, or in our community, can heavily influence the way we think and communicate. Our language patterns can also be shaped by the social groups we belong to and the values and beliefs that we share with those groups.

In addition, our individual experiences and perspectives also play a role in shaping our language patterns. For example, if someone has a negative experience with public speaking, they may develop language patterns that reflect their fear and discomfort with public speaking.

Once language patterns are formed, they can become ingrained and habitual and can be difficult to change without deliberate effort. However, by becoming aware of our language patterns and the beliefs and assumptions that underlie them, we can begin to challenge and reshape them to better reflect our goals and values.

This is where the meta-model questions can be especially helpful in identifying and challenging limiting language patterns.  Clarifying the meaning of language and identifying distortions, generalizations, and deletions.   These questions include:

  • What specifically?
  • How specifically?
  • According to whom?
  • Compared to what?
  • What is the cause?
  • What is the effect?
  • What is the evidence?
  • What is the counter-example?
  • What is the context?

By using these questions, we can challenge limiting language patterns and expand our understanding of the world around us. For example, if someone says "I can't do that," we can use the Meta-Model to ask "What specifically can't you do?" or "How specifically can't you do it?" By doing this, we can help the person to identify the specific limitation that they are facing and work with them to find a way to overcome it.

However, like any tool, it has its pros and cons.


  1. Clarity: Helps clarify the meaning of language and identify distortions, generalizations, and deletions.
  2. Empowerment:  Challenges limiting beliefs and language patterns, to empower ourselves to take action and achieve our goals.
  3. Improved communication: Can improve our communication skills, both in terms of understanding others and expressing ourselves more clearly.
  4. Problem-solving: Helps to identify specific problems and find solutions to overcome them.


  1. Overuse: Can be overused, leading to a robotic or formulaic style of communication that may not be natural or effective in all situations.
  2. Misinterpretation: If the questions are not used carefully by a coach, they can be misinterpreted or perceived as confrontational or aggressive.
  3. Limited effectiveness: Is not a panacea and may not be effective in all situations, particularly in cases where emotions and interpersonal dynamics are involved.
  4. Over-reliance: Can lead to a lack of creativity and flexibility in communication and problem-solving.

I believe the Meta-Model is a valuable tool that can help us to improve our communication skills and overcome limiting beliefs and language patterns. However, it should be used carefully and appropriately, taking into account the specific context and needs of the individual or situation.

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