NLP Meta Programs

By Bhuwan Sharma

As an avid NLP enthusiast and a practicing coach, I find myself gasping to really comprehend the true potential of using NLP tools and techniques as a harbinger of positive change. There are various ways I use NLP techniques in my everyday professional life and I am hoping some of you readers may perceive these ideas as helpful tools as well. I am going to mention some of the NLP Meta Programs below, what they mean and how, I feel, as a business or team leader, you can implement them for your personal understanding or to enhance your team’s performance.

NLP uses some Meta Program patterns that we all tend to use and if we are aware, we can notice others using them too. Of course, we use these largely unconsciously. These program patterns are mainly used to sort information that are bombarded at us from all directions and are at many times highly influential as they affect what we focus on, our formation of internal representations and how we perceive our experiences and make sense from the information. You can basically think of these program patterns as filters that help you sort out what are not relevant or important to you and also help you pay attention to what is significant for you. Without these filters, you would be overwhelmed with the massive flood of incoming information and no real tool for us to distinguish what is relevant and significant for us and what’s not?

Meta programs basically, enables you to manage and file your thinking process, your behaviors and your experiences. However, it is very important to keep in mind that, there are no right or wrong Meta Programs, no better or worse. Each of these programs has it’s strengths and also limitations depending on context and situations. Understanding these programs will help you spot how you process information and behave according to them and use it to actively drive you towards your desired outcome.

Understanding Meta Programs will give you the art of communicating, empathizing and influencing others as you can respond to them with the same programs they are running at the time.

I will describe some of the important ones here and I am sure these will play role to help you become remarkably more effective in your career or supportive in your relationships, personal or professional.

“Meta programs basically, enables you to manage and file your thinking process, your behaviors and your experiences.”

You can use these Meta Programs for:

  • Understanding other people by recognizing what programs they are running.
  • Understanding yourself better by recognizing what programs you run at any given context.
  • Meta Programs can help you foresee a career that is best suited for your programs, which in turn could lead to long fulfilling life.
  • Could come in really handy while hiring new employee as you would have a better feeling for which Meta Program would be best suited for which position. 

Away from – towards:

What motivates you into action? Pain or pleasure? If you are motivated into a rigorous morning workout routine by your current self-image, you feel you need to lose a few kilos and you are moving away from these pain, you are running away from the program. However, if you see yourself motivated into the same workout with the desire of becoming fit, healthy and you are moving towards these pleasures, you are running towards the program. Knowing which program you run in any given context can actually come in really handy when you want to motivate yourself given that you know what motivation effectively works for you. It also comes in handy when you are trying to motivate your employee or loved ones. If your employee runs strongly towards the program, a promotion may just be what she feels is a motivation she needs or if someone is running away from the program, mention of loss of respect among team members could be a good motivation. A loved one may spring into a workout routine if you can illustrate to him the unpleasant consequences of inaction. 

Necessity – possibility:

Some people feel the need to do things because they have to be done, or ought to be done. If you are motivated to do things because they simply have to be done or should be done or ought to be done you are running a necessity program. On the other hand, if you are motivated to do things when you see new possibilities, or when you hear of the unknown or what could be, you are running a possibility program.

Those of us, running on necessity show strong attraction for procedure. We have colleagues, friends and bosses who pressure us into doing certain things done exactly in a particular way. These people use language of necessity like, have to, should, required to etc. and lack any sort of choices. Those of us running on possibility programs are motivated when we witness lots of options, choices and alternatives. Choices are the foundation for these individuals and will use language of hopes, possibilities and wishes.

Self – others

You are running a self program if you generally focus on self. This does not mean that you are selfish at all. If you are running on this program, it implies that you hold a system of processing information, situations and events through your own perspective before considering others’. This may, however, look like you spend a lot of time in your inner world to others around you.

If you are running on others program, on the other hand, you are very aware of how the events, situation or information affects others, before you look at yourself. You are probably taken by others as someone who is really caring, attentive and sensitive to people around you.

Taking any of these programs to extremes can cause stress or problems: those running on self program could end up as selfish or self-absorbed and those running on others, end up trying to please everyone at their own expense.

Match – Mismatch

Those who like to focus on similarities of events, situations or context are running the similarities program. These are the people who when they meet strangers, examine how these new people are similar to them. If you are talking to someone in a party and start to sense solid connection and converse for a while and later when you analyze that person and what you can remember is how: both of you had pet dogs, both of you came from the same town, both of you were introverts and how both of you loved mangoes, you are running on similarities program. These people are great at rapport building and if you are seeking to hire a salesperson, public relation executive, customer service executive etc. talk to these people. Also, if you feel like giving suggestions to these people, think carefully before suggesting a completely new course of action.

A new course of action would be an excellent suggestion to someone running on a difference program. These people search for differences or they are really good at noticing exceptions. They are good at noticing what is missing. They also have a feeling for heated debate. So, if you are looking to hire an accountant or a lawyer, you know what kind of people you would need. 

Also, it may be wise for a business leader to try and include both styles in most teams and that could give a valuable balance to them.

Small chunk – big chunk

In simple terms, those who see big pictures are running on the big chunk program while those who need tiny details are running on small chunk programs. The big chunks are too busy seeing the big picture and often miss small details and on the other hand, small chunks are too busy with small details and often cannot grasp the big picture.

Small chunks are really good at remembering and handling details but lack an overall framework to relate it to. Big chunks are great at vision setting, strategy making and planning but get really impatient with the details that may actually be vital to make those plans work.

Having small chunks and big chunks sit down for a meeting can become quite unsettling and sometimes they can drive each other up the wall. One person may start feeling overwhelmed with the flooding of all the details she/he is getting while the other person is frustrated with lack of any details from the other. As you may have already noticed, it is essential for team leaders to include both styles in their team to ensure a balanced perspective.

There are plenty more meta programs in NLP and I have only discussed some of the important ones here. This should give you a little bit of insight on what kind of program/s you are running or a firm understanding of what programs your loved ones are running. Are you a small chunk who focuses on similarities and are motivated by away from targets? Or are you running on other programs? It is also vital to take notice of these in your team members as these programs maybe having an impact on your team performance. This will be a good guide for you and/or your team members on the type of language to use with specific member running on specific programs. If you are dealing with a small chunk team member, be sure to provide her/him with detailed information when you are delegating anything. If you are trying to motivate a team member who is running on towards program, be sure to mention to her/him the perks of getting the project completed, maybe a promotion, a bonus or maybe even an incentive travel.

These could be an incredibly powerful tool for you to use while hiring new employees. If you can hire staff according the meta program/s required by the vacant post, it could prevent future sufferings for both the employer and employee.

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