NLP Modeling - Strategy Elicitation


NLP Modeling, whilst at the heart of NLP, seems to be a skill that many NLP practitioners don’t really have a good grasp of. I suppose it’s due to the fact that NLP was first used to model therapists and once these models were taught then NLP became in many people’s eyes it's own models.

A good metaphor for this would be the fact that most people think that Frankenstein is the monster not the mad scientist who invented the monster.

To be successful at NLP Modeling you will require a good level of sensory acuity, as generally people are unaware of their strategies and often think that they know how they do something but are actually incorrect. Sensory acuity allows you to get past these kind of sticking points.

So how do you use NLP to model someone?

Let’s imagine for a moment that someone has a good skill for interior design. To start your NLP modeling sessions, you would probably start with a question such as 'When you walk into a room, what do you do?' or 'Imagine walking into a room. What happens?'. Note that the second question may make the process harder as you are controlling their internal representations and in a sense asking them to imagine imagining. In fact, if possible, in this interior designer example the best way forward would be to use the room you're actually in - 'Imagine you've just walked into this room and I ask you to design it. What do you do?'

At this point the NLP practitioner's job is to shut up, watch and listen.

Does the person perform any eye accessing?

Do they make any images?

Do they change their posture/position or use their hands?

The response you get and anything else you notice should give you a direction. If they say they make a representation of the room as they want it to look, then you know they've missed a lot of the process.

'Back up a little. What happens before you make the final picture?'

If they say something like 'I just know, I would paint it X, or put a Y in position Z' but you saw them make internal representations you want them to become conscious of that.

'Do you have an image in mind of how it will look?'

If they have no idea, but draw something with their hands what is it?

The goal is to uncover the process by constantly asking yourself if the process works without any further information. For instance, if the designer is aware of a final image that they like then we have no idea how they reached that decision, but there must have been ain internal process listing and comparing options:

'How did you decide to paint it blue rather than green?'

'Why did you put a fireplace on that wall?'

'And how did you decide to put a fireplace in at all?'

The kind of strategy you may uncover as part of your NLP modeling could start something like this:

Firstly I notice the windows and imagine walking into the room on a sunny day. I imagine the room in red, then blue, and with each image I prefer I set it over to the left, then I imagine a different color and again choose the best until I'm happy. I keep going until I have exhausted the list of colors that I'm visualizing like a palette just below my line of sight. Once I have the main co lour, I perform a similar operation to choose a complementary color and see it on different walls to see if it feels like. Sometimes I add a second color and sometimes I don't. Once I'm happy, I say to myself 'That's it', then I pull up an inventory of furniture. I start with a general fireplace as its important to place first – it’s the top of the list.

As you can see, a strategy can be incredibly complex and usually completely unconscious. To pull that much detail out requires a lot of attention and the skill to ask the right questions. If at the end you can't run through the process in your own mind then you haven’t got it all. NLP modeling can take some time!

There are a couple of important points about NLP strategy elicitation. Once you've been doing this kind of NLP modeling for a while, you start to spot a lot of similar patterns; For example, there are obvious places where there must be a comparison and a decision, and there are obvious points where the client must visualize something. You must be careful to ask questions in a manner to ensure that you are eliciting a strategy and not creating one!

So if you know the person is creating an image because you can see it then ask about it. If you don't know what they're doing, even if you think you know what should be occurring, then be vague enough to let them discover it for themselves. Otherwise you risk the situation where you ask about a nonexistent image and the client thinks 'an image of a room, you say. I can do that' and you’re editing their strategy on the fly. Useful vague questions are questions like:

'How do you know?'

'How do you decide?'

Finally, the strategy elicitation phase of NLP modeling can seem very intrusive if the person is struggling to unpack a strategy so an easy going attitude and light approach works wonders.

In the next article on NLP modeling I'll be covering strategy installation.