The Importance of Modeling

“After a hard day of basic training, you could eat a rattlesnake.”

– Elvis Presley 

Good training flows from good models; it manifests those models in its approach to teaching as well as its content. If models were not important, you could learn everything you need regarding NLP from books. 

Would you rather learn a collection of techniques, or have the same abilities as those Bandler used in creating the models that gave NLP its start? 

Having that kind of skill would mean that you could discover and invent techniques endlessly and according to the needs of the individual client. This is why I wrote the Path of Mastery article that delves more deeply into the spirit of NLP. It points out that NLP is primarily a model, and that this is more important than any theories or philosophy attached to it. 

That model is the meta-model that tells us about modeling. 

You might say that it is the how of how. It takes the birds eye view of creating excellence. Modeling is the foundation of NLP, it is how NLP got started, and it is the source of the theories and patterns of NLP.

Let’s get deeper with what modeling is. The key to modeling is being very observant–looking for and observing subtleties. That’s the yin of modeling. The yang of modeling is being willing to experiment and to seek the “active ingredients” of what you are observing; why does it get the results it gets? 

This yin and yang can streamline your approach to getting results or producing excellence, because you are coming into the situation with an eye for these active ingredients. You may find that many of the things the model (the person you are modeling) thinks are important are not actually the active ingredients. 

This discovery allows you to eliminate some of the behaviors and ideas that make the person less efficient. 

Unconscious ingredients: 

Some of these active ingredients are unconscious; the model does not know they are doing them. You cannot know everything about a person’s state just by looking at them. But you also cannot learn everything from what they say, because most excellent performers do not fully, consciously understand why they are successful. Discovering such hidden wealth was very important in putting NLP on the map. It created a great deal of excitement, especially among therapists, because it was revealing things that even excellent therapists could not tell you about why they were successful. 

Regardless of how passionately or authoritatively the model tells you, how they do what they do, look for unconscious ingredients. 

Bandler and Grinder in their book Frogs into Princes state that modeling is not about what people say, it’s about what people do. But I believe it is both, that it is also about what people consciously experience. However, you have to determine which of the things they tell you are the active ingredients. This requires experimentation. 

Syntax and submodalities: 

A key to modeling is to ask questions and make observations that uncover the syntax of the internal thoughts and external behaviors. This reveals the structure behind excellence or dysfunctional behavior. Therapists may focus on dysfunctional behavior and thought patterns in order to help their client recognize that they have choices throughout the process. This is one way of opening the door to change. By getting sequences of thoughts and memories in the form of sensory submodalities (like size, brightness, and loudness), NLP dramatically surpassed cognitive therapy. 

One of the reasons NLP is so concerned with submodalities is that they are such a powerful part of change work. Through means such as the NLP swish pattern, they can connect strong drives to propel a new, desirable behavior. The idea here is to generate motivation to do what works, and to avoid what doesn’t work. At the time NLP was becoming popular, cognitive therapy too narrowly focused on thoughts and beliefs in the form of words. This is like comparing a drawing on a piece of paper to the real world. One is much richer than the other. To this day, many mainstream therapists are much more limited in this respect, in comparison to an NLP practitioner. 

Modern training: 

In order for training to be authentic NLP training, it must have both the spirit of NLP and effective models that, at the least, incorporate what has been introduced by the founders of NLP. Ideally, though, training should also incorporate the wisdom and techniques of those who have carried NLP beyond its first rush of popularity. Some of these luminaries include Robert Dilts, Steve Andreas, Connie Rae Andreas, and an innovator I’ve been following diligently for many years, Dr. Tad James. 

If you are considering a training that presents itself as a modern approach to NLP, the trainers are probably going to say that it has expanded beyond the early base of NLP theory and technique. If so, then it should have two main qualities: 

1) It should be built upon those aspects of NLP that have stood the test of time, and 

2) it should draw from evidence-based modern knowledge. In particular, this modern knowledge would include cognitive techniques (such as from cognitive behavioral therapy), behavioral science (such as operant conditioning), and additional new models of excellent people.