NLP meta model- 13 Patterns you can try right away

The NLP Meta Model and its language patterns are most effective in getting into the heart of the matter. Originally based on the work of Naom Chomski, and research of John Grinder on Transformational Grammar NLP Meta Model can be the most useful tool for your coaching practice.

What is the NLP Meta Model?

NLP Meta Model is simply reverse engineering to get the information that is deleted, distorted or generalized in communication.

In the NLP communication model, we have learned that we communicate through our filters i.e deletion, distortion, and generalization. NLP Meta models help us to get those missing pieces of information.

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The NLP Meta model is a set of language patterns and specific questions that help us to go into the deep structure of the communication, rather than focusing on the surface structure that is communicated to us.

NLP meta model

NLP meta model language patterns

The NLP Meta Model has 13 Meta model language patterns that are divided into three categories. Those categories are Deletion, Distortion, and Generalization.

Deletions :

In Deletions, important information or part of the information is omitted from the communication. This makes communication ineffective and limits the action.

There are five NLP Meta model language patterns in deletion, those are

  1. Simple Deletion
  2. Unspecified Referential Index
  3. Unspecified Verb
  4. Judgments/Lost performatives
  5. Comparison

Now let’s look at the Deletions NLP Meta model language patterns in detail.

Simple Deletion

The simple deletion occurs when an important part of the information is missing from the sentence.

For Example:

That is important.

I have been away

We need to recover whatever is missing with such open sentences. 

For Example

“That is important.” “What is important and according to whom?”

“I have been away” “ Where have you been?”


We can recover the missing information by asking questions like, “What?” “When?” and “Where?”

Unspecified Referential Index (Mission person)

In this NLP Meta model language pattern, Action is happening but by whom is missing.

In simple words, things that take action or are affected by the action and are not clear or unspecified. So something is happening but nobody is doing it.

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A quick way to identify this pattern is to look for passive verbs. A passive verb will say something is done but not who is doing it?

For Example.

“Mistakes were made”

“Nobody likes me”

“They don’t care”

Another key to identifying this pattern is to look for words like “him”, “her”, “they” and “one”.


This is very easy to question as well, just ask for the missing person from the sentence.

For Example. 

“Mistakes were made” “Who made mistakes?”

“Nobody likes me” “Nobody?” “Who does not like you?”

To recover the missing information, ask “Who exactly?” in this type of NLP Meta model language pattern.

Unspecified verbs

In this pattern, an unspecified verb changes or deletes the “how an event actually happened?”

For Example

“I argued with him.”

“I created a great impression on her.”

The key for this NLP Meta Model language pattern is to question unspecified verbs.

For Example

“ I argued with him.” “How exactly did you argue with him?”

“ I created a great impression on her.” “How exactly did you do that?”


The key question to ask in this language pattern is “How exactly?”. This will help you find unspecified verbs in the sentences.

Judgments/ Lost performatives

The judgments are the sentences where opinions are expressed as facts.

Here the persons who made this judgment and standard by which opinion is formed is also missing most of the time. 

This NLP Meta Model language pattern is also known as lost performative because the performer or the person who has made this opinion or judgment is missing in the sentence.

For Example.

“That is not good enough”

“Children should be seen and not heard”.


Here the key is to ask questions related to the values behind the statements. We have to find who is doing the judging.

For Example

“That is not good enough” “ Based on what standards it is not good enough?”

“Children should be seen and not heard” “What’s your experience for claiming that?”

A quick way to challenge this language pattern is by asking “who says so?”


A statement where there is a comparison and the part of with which comparison is missing, It is the Comparison NLP Meta Model language pattern.

“You did that badly”.

“She is a better player”

“That is easier”


The key to identifying this language pattern is to look for words like better, worse, easier, harder, good and bad. The words which are used to compare one thing with another.

Usually in this type of sentence basis of comparison is missing, our job is to identify that.

For Example. 

“You did that badly.” “Badly compared to what?”

“She is a better player” “better than whom?”

“That is easier” “easier compared to what?”

This NLP Meta model language pattern is most useful in coaching and therapy.


In this type of NLP meta model pattern, sentences are formed in a such way that they twists the meaning of it. As a result, it gives very limited choices and leads to the problem.

This Meta Model pattern includes


Mind reading

Cause and effect

Complex equivalents



In this NLP Meta model language pattern, the ongoing process is frozen into an event. 

In nominalization, the verb is being turned into an abstract noun. It most important meta model in the English language.

In other words, when a noun can not be directly seen, touched, heard, tasted, or smelled it is nominalization.

For Example. 

“ I have a lot of fears”.

“ The stress is too much for me”


The key here is to turn the noun back into the verb and express thought as a process. 

For Example.

“ I have a lot of fear?” “How are you frightening yourself?” “What are you frightened of?”

“ The stress is too much for me”  “How are you stressing yourself?” “What is stressing for you?”

Mind Reading

This is more of a common NLP Meta model, where the speaker presumes to read the mind of the audience to cultivate its own belief.

While doing this we impose our map over others, while doing so we assume motives that do not exist.

For Example.

“You do not like me.”

“They think I am an idiot”


The key to getting the information for this kind of NLP Meta Model language pattern is to ask sensory-based questions.

For Example.

“You do not like me” “How do you know I do not like you?”

“They think I am an idiot”. “What makes you think that?”

Cause and Effect

This NLP Meta Model language pattern assumes that one person’s behavior can make another person respond in a certain way.

This is also one of the most common Meta Models of the English language. We tend to frame sentences as this happens because of that.

We always connect two events, making one causing it and another is affected by it.

For Example

“He made me do it.”

“The news made me upset.”


The key to get missing information in the cause and effect Meta Model, ask how one thing causes another. This challenges the sentence’s unspecified verbs.

For Example

“He made me do it” “How exactly did he make you do it?”

“The news made me upset” “How did that happen”

Complex Equivalent

In this NLP Meta Model language pattern, one sentence is linked to others in such a way that one means the other.

The most common word ‘therefore’ can be found in this type of sentence.

For Example

He is always late. He does not care. (Here coming late is link with caring)


To challenge this Meta Model language pattern simply ask how two statements are connected.

You can also reverse the question.

For Example.

He is always late. He does not care.

“How coming late is related to care?”

“Does that mean, If you come late you also do not care?”


Presuppositions are straight forward assumptions on part of others. In this we assume things based on our map of the world.

This is different from Mind reading, it is more cunning and embedded in the sentences.

For Example. 

“When are you going to act more responsibly?” here it assumes “You are not acting responsibly enough”.


To question this kind of NLP Meta Model language pattern, bring the question for open discussion.

For Example

“When are you going to act more responsibly?”

You can ask – “ You are assuming I am not acting responsibly. Is that what you mean? I think otherwise.”


One set of examples used to categorize the whole lot in one segment. This narrow downs your choices and possibilities.

This NLP Meta Model language pattern includes 

Modal operators of necessity

Modal operators of possibility


Modal operators of possibility

These sentences are all about what is possible. They define in a speaker’s view of what is possible and not possible.

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The quick way to identify this pattern is to look for words like “can,” “can not” “impossible” and “possible”.

Question the modal operators of possibility by asking the following type of question.

“What is stopping you?”

“What will happen if you do that?”

“Just imagine if you could…..”

For Example

“ I just could not refuse” 

You can ask

“ What is stopping you to refuse?”

“ What will happen if you start refusing?”

“ Just imagine if you could refuse.”


Modal operators of necessity

This NLP meta model pattern talks about what is necessary or a set of rules.

This pattern is more flexible than modal operators of possibility. Since at has scope for changing.

To identify this type of pattern look for words like “should”, “must” and “ought”. 

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The best way to challenge this pattern is to question the necessity. 

You can also use the question like modal operators of possibility, asking what will happen?.

For Example.

“I must do it better”

“ What will happen if you did not do it better?”


The universals are a pattern of generalizations. Like any other generalization one thing which may be true in one event assumed to be true for all events.

The quick way to identify this NLP Meta Model language pattern is to look for words like, “never”, “always”, “everybody” which states as if there are no other possibilities.


To challenge this pattern, give a counterexample, exaggerate, or isolate the universals.

For Example

“Nothing ever happened in this office” “Nothing at all? Ever?”

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NLP meta model questions

I have made a list of NLP Meta Model questions that we can use as an example. You can make changes as per your need.

QuestionNLP Meta Model Pattern
Who said that?Lost performative
How do you know?Mind Reading
Everything? Always? Everytime?Universals
How does that cause that?Cause and effect
What makes you believe you can not…?Modal operators of possibility
What if you do…..?Modal operators of necessity
How specifically are you ….ing?Nominalization
How specifically do you know that?Presuppositions
How does x mean y?Complex equivalent
What specifically?Unspecified Verbs
Who/what/ at whom specifically?Simple Deletion
Compared to what?Comparative deletion.

NLP meta model exercise

There are more than 12 NLP meta model patterns to learn, it takes time to get mastery over it.

Here are some NLP meta model exercises you can use for practice. 

  1. Read novels which have conversation style writing. Try to identify the NLP meta model used and verify with this blog or NLP books.
  2. Make a group of people and do deliberate practice. I have practiced this with my two other friends. We switch roles, one puts a statement and the other uses NLP meta model questioning.
  3. Practice identifying language patterns in your day to day life. Be careful to do it with people with whom you have a good rapport.

warningWords of Caution while using NLP meta model

The NLP Meta Model is the most effective tool when it comes to coaching and therapy. Sometimes your client may not feel comfortable or get offended while we use it.

Make sure to build a good rapport with clients before getting into the Meta Model. The comfort and trust level is a must for the success of NLP meta models.

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Read my other posts here

NLP Anchoring

NLP Communication model – the only 1 model to improve communication

Further Reading

NLP Meta Model