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Meta Model & Language Patterns
Maps of the World Martyn Carruthers

Online Life Coaching, Counseling and Systemic Therapy

Our systemic coaching does not replace classical coaching. Classical coaching is useful for people making decisions in controllable environments with simple objectives.

Systemic coaching is useful when making relationship decisions,
especially in complex environments or with ambiguous objectives.

We also mentor helping professionals who wish to add
systemic psychology to their repertoire.

Meta-Model: Background & Definitions

The Meta-Model is a name of a simple language model developed by Bandler and Grinder in the early 1970's, based on the grammar models of Noam Chomsky.

Any experience is richer than can be communicated with words. When you use words to communicate experience, there are differences between your experience (deep structure) and the language you use to describe that experience (surface structure).

Whenever you describe an experience, you delete, distort and generalize the information.

  • Deletions: you omit parts of an experience
  • Distortions: you modify the description of an experience
  • Generalizations: you make general conclusions about an experience

If you want to acquire or share knowledge, you can benefit from filling in the missing information, clarify ambiguities; identify presuppositions; resolve conflicts and challenge inconsistencies. You can try to reverse the deletions, distortions and generalizations that are commonly made when people describe internal or external experience!

While interrogation or torture may gain wanted information, the use of elicitation as taught in NLP is more subtle and less likely to create lasting damage. However, you need to know:

  1. What information do you want?
  2. How you will use this information?
  3. Why you want more or better information?
  4. What are the relationship consequences of gaining this information?

Evolution of Systemic Coaching . Comparison of Coaching Styles

Language Patterns

A meta-model is a model of a model - a model of a language model. Although most sentences contain deletions, distortions and generalizations; you can recover some missing or distorted information by asking meta-model questions.

(Note that these meta-model questions can annoy or irritate people.)

Patterns of deletion, distortion and generalization can be organized in 3 categories:

1. Missing Information 2. Map of the World 3. Semantic Errors
  • Unspecified nouns
  • Unspecified verbs
  • Nominalizations
  • Unspecified referential index
  • Comparisons
  • Universal quantifiers
  • Modal operators of possibility
  • Modal operators of necessity
  • Presuppositions
  • Mind reading
  • Cause and effect
  • Complex equivalences


The meta-model, as taught in NLP, is used to gain information. However, some NLP trainers teach it in frames of covert influence and covert elicitation - how to manipulate people or get valuable information from them without alerting those people that you are doing something they did not request and may well avoid.

Do you want to influence a person's behavior (e.g. sales) or enhance your knowledge? Are you compelled to challenge a person's map of the world or to correct semantic errors? We note that people who can best be described as passive-aggressive or covert hostile often excel at semantic manipulation.

To avoid covert manipulation, you can introduce and frame your questions, and your reasons for asking them, and use a normal (not hypnotic) voice tonality and tempo.

Meta-Model 1, 2, 3 & 4

The first three meta-model distinctions are commonly described in NLP training. Our systemic coach training explores and applies Metamodel 4 in depth.

  • Meta-model 1: which questions are useful for recovering which types of information?
  • Meta-model 2: what is your purpose for recovering information?
  • Meta-model 3: what is the relationship between an experience, its description and physiological cues (non-verbal body language)?
  • Meta-model 4: what are the relationship consequences of describing and communicating experiences?

Relationship consequences of therapeutic techniques

Clear Communication

Do you want to change negative emotions or conflicts?
Do you want to manage relationship problems? Contact us

Online Life Coaching, Counseling and Soulwork Training

I thought you were just another therapist - but you were not just. Not even. Not only.

Plagiarism is theft. Copyright Martyn Carruthers 2004-2018
All rights reserved.

If you like our work, please link to us. If you know someone who might benefit,
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Soulwork systemic coaching in America & Hawaii


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Soulwork systemic coaching in Poland



Have You Suffered Enough?

 Where are you now? Understand your emotions, fixations and enmeshments
What do you hope for? Know your goals and stop sabotaging yourself
Do you feel resourceful? Learn to develop your inner resources
Do emotions block you? Relationship problems and mentor damage
Do your beliefs limit you? Change limiting beliefs and end dependence
Do you feel connected? Resolve identity issues to recover lost resources
Is your partner happy? Build healthy partnership (or separate peacefully)
Are your children healthy? Happy parents better manage family problems
Do you want team success? Team leaders and their teams develop together
Do you have complex goals? Specialty coaching, counseling & therapy

Plagiarism is theft. Copyright Martyn Carruthers 1996-2018  All rights reserved. Soulwork Systemic Coaching was primarily developed by Martyn Carruthers to help people solve emotional problems and relationship conflicts to achieve their goals. These concepts and strategies are for general knowledge only. Consult a physician about medical conditions and before changing medical treatment. Don't steal intellectual property ... get permission to post, publish or teach Martyn's work - email