“He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.” — Lao Tzu
Meta-programs are a way to improve your self-awareness and better understand those around you.
You can use them to improve how you communicate with yourself and others.
Intrinsic values show themselves as patterns in what you say, how you say it, and what you do.
Meta-Programs Describe Your Behavior
Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) calls these intrinsic values, meta-programs. You can think of each meta-program as a range of behavior and tendencies based on what you value.
The real key is to pay attention to know where your intrinsic values are holding you back, and to use the meta-programs to help you improve your effectiveness with others.
In Brilliant Nlp: What the Most Successful People Know, Say & Do, David Molden and Pat Hutchinson write about some of the most common NLP meta-programs.
NLP Meta-Program Examples
Molden and Hutchinson write about the following NLP intrinsic values:
- Towards and Away From NLP Meta-Program
- Options and Procedures NLP Meta-Program
- In-Time and Thru-Time NLP Meta-Program
- Internal Frame of Reference and External Frame of Reference NLP Meta-Program
- Self and Others NLP Meta-Program
- Detail and Global NLP Meta-Program
- Feeling and Thinking NLP Meta-Program
- Sameness and Difference NLP Meta-Program
1. Towards and Away From NLP Program
If you have a Towards Program, you tend to move towards pleasure. You set goals easily and frequently create new goals for yourself. If you have an Away Program, you focus on moving away from pain and avoiding risk. You make sure everything is safe before moving forward.
- Advantages – forward-thinking, goal-oriented, positive energy and drive.
- Disadvantages – may get entangled by too many new initiatives at once; may be perceived as ‘gung-ho’; has a tendency to leave things unfinished.
Away From Program
- Advantages – very good at assessing risks and recognizing what to avoid.
- Disadvantages – overly cautious with a tendency to focus on the downside; may appear negative and unwilling to try new experiences; makes choices based on avoidance rather than a desire for something new.
2. Options and Procedures NLP Meta-Program
If you have an Options Program, you like to have choices in your life. If you have a Procedures Program, you like to have rituals and routines to follow in order to be effective.
- Advantages – explores many options and provides people with choices; happy to test and break rules.
- Disadvantages – may procrastinate and avoid making decisions until forced to do so by circumstances; very good at reinventing the wheel.
- Advantages – very efficient; good with rule-based administration; will stick to agreed notes.
- Disadvantages – the procedure may become more important than the job to be done; at worst bureaucratic and blocking.
3. In-Time and Thru-Time NLP Meta-Program
If you have an In-Time Program, you live “in the moment”, not worrying about what comes next. You are fully engaged in the present and you value each moment.
If you have a Thru-Time Program, you spend your time planning and making sure you are not late for meetings. Your preoccupation with planning your next moment or analyzing the last may prevent you from concentrating on the matter in hand.
- Advantages – can concentrate on tasks; emotionally and mentally engaged in each activity and every experience.
- Disadvantages – frequently late and can give the impression of not being concerned about timekeeping; may get involved in too many things through attachment.
- Advantages – good planner and timekeeper.
- Disadvantages – may give the impression of not being engaged in the current activity; being on time, and scheduling activities, can become more important than the activities themselves.
4. Internal Frame of Reference and External Frame of Reference NLP Meta-Program
If you have an Internal Frame of Reference Program, you instinctively know when you have done a good job and you will want to solve all your own problems. You will want to solve all your own problems. You rarely ask for advice from other people. You make decisions on your own judgments, feelings and opinions.
If you have an External Frame of Reference Program, you measure yourself against the feedback from other people. When faced with a challenge, you will seek facts, evidence, advice and opinions from other people and sources.
Internal Frame of Reference Program
- Advantages – can stay motivated when there is little feedback or praise.
- Disadvantages – internal standards may override, and sometimes cancel out, external evidence; will disregard evidence, facts, and sound advice from other people.
External Frame of Reference Program
- Advantages – will make decisions based on concrete facts and evidence, or maybe just the ‘feel good’ factor so long as it comes from an external source; able to give excellent customer service and help to others.
- Disadvantages – will get stressed when there is a lack of external feedback. Needs frequent feedback on performance to make good progress; will be indecisive if there is a lack of feedback.
5. Self and Others NLP Meta-Program
If you have a Self Program, you speak in terms of “I” and “What’s in it for me?” You believe that people are capable of looking after themselves. You help yourself to coffee, push in front of traffic queues, take the last chocolate and put yourself first when making decisions.
If you have an Others Program, you spend a lot of time making sure everyone is comfortable and happy and may neglect your own needs and wants.
- Advantages – looks after self and is very self-sufficient; avoid getting tangled up in other people’s problems.
- Disadvantages – does not engender good team spirit and sometimes may be perceived as arrogant and uncaring.
- Advantages – good team player looking out for the needs of others; does well in caring professions.
- Disadvantages – personal well-being can suffer through putting other people first; can be perceived as unpredictable because many decisions are based on what others think and how they might react; considers the welfare of the team to be more important than getting the job done.
6. Detail and Global NLP Meta-Program
If you have a Detail Program, you will be concerned about the specifics of a situation. Your conversations are likely to be long and drawn out to cover all the details. While focusing on the details you sometimes forget the overall purpose.
If you have a Global Program, you look at situations from the bigger picture and speak in general terms avoiding detail. You move conversations onto different topics in preference to discussing details.
- Advantages – very comfortable working with details and excellent at spotting small mistakes; copes very well with large documents and small print.
- Disadvantages – can get bogged down in detail and work away happily, even though the purpose may have changed; may be perceived as pedantic or fastidious.
- Advantages – make a good strategist or concept creator; can generate big ideas.
- Disadvantages – may appear to have the head in the clouds; may feel uncomfortable holding a detailed conversation; frustration with details may result in too many ideas and little execution.
7. Feeling and Thinking NLP Meta-Program
If you have a Feeling Program, you react emotionally to a variety of situations. If you have a Thinking Program, you take a pragmatic approach and logical approach to situations while remaining emotionally detached.
- Advantages – takes people’s feelings into account in making decisions.
- Disadvantages – can appear emotive; others may be wary of evoking an emotional response.
- Advantages – decisions are made based on logic, fact and evaluation.
- Disadvantages – can appear to be cold and unfeeling; may not consider the feelings of others before speaking and acting.
8. Sameness and Difference NLP Meta-Program
If you have a Sameness Program, you will generate understanding by looking for similarities with previous experience. Repetition doesn’t bore you, it instills comfort and familiarity.
- Advantages – can be relied on to complete repetitive activities successfully.
- Disadvantages – may be perceived as unadventurous by others; may not be willing to try new things even if they could be beneficial.
- Advantages – happy to try out new ideas and concepts; gains many different life experiences.
- Disadvantages – sometimes creates change for the sake of creating change; doesn’t understand the concept of “if it works don’t fix it”; lack of stability.
Key Take Aways
Here are my key take aways:
- Know the types of intrinsic values. Knowing the intrinsic values provides a lens for understanding behavior and preferences.
- Know your own intrinsic values. If you know your own values, you can better understand your potential biases and you can add perspectives under your belt.
- Know the intrinsic values of those you interact with. If you know the intrinsic values of those you spend time with, you can blend or bridge to help build rapport.
- Towards and Away From. Some people prefer to move towards pleasure while others prefer to move away from pain.
- Options and Procedures. Some people like to make up things as they go along, while others prefer a routine.
- In-Time and Thru-Time. Some people prefer are in the moment and fully engaged, while others are planning their next moves and future.
- Internal Frame of Reference and External Frame of Reference. Some people prefer judgments based on their own frame of reference, while others prefer to make judgments based on other people’s frame of reference.
- Self and Others. Some people are more self-centered while others are more other directed.
- Detail and Global. Some people prefer the details, while others prefer a map of the bigger picture.
- Feeling and Thinking. Some people prefer to feel their way through things and rely on intuition, while others prefer to think their way through things.
- Sameness and Difference. Some people easily see how things are the same, while others more easily see how things are different.
The more you know about yourself and others, the more you can easily adapt and respond.
Your freedom and ability to choose your response in any situation improves your personal power.
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