NLP Practitioner Course
with Tom Mackay

Day 4 - Notes

Today on the NLP Practitioner course was all about the power of language, including the Milton Model (hypnotic language) and Meta Model. This is some AMAZING stuff but will be a bit detailed for amateur NLPers. If you're really interested in NLP, you'll find my notes fascinating. They show you how to use language to influence people, and also understand clients / friends better. This is some seriously powerful stuff. Enjoy!

Here's my notes:

The way we ask questions can have a massive impact on the answers we get.

For example, “Did it work?” is a closed question, with just a yes / no answer

“How do you feel differently?” - open question, presupposes that something IS different, creates a very different internal search.

“That problem that you used to have, now when you think about it, how do you feel differently?” - this presupposes that the problem you had is GONE and that you feel DIFFERENTLY now in the present.

Subtle variations in language make a big difference.

Linguistic Presuppositions

Statements that are assumed to be true at an unconscious level.

“I'm unhappy because my parents fought a lot”
Presupposes that the parents fought
Presupposes cause and effect

However – be careful not to MIND READ what the client needs – i.e. in the example above, perhaps “fought” means they did martial arts together, and not fought in the typical sense.

“You may not know that you already have all the resources you need”
Presupposes that you already have the resources necessary

Presuppositions are covered in The Structure of Magic.

Some people speak in very ambiguous terms, whereas some speak very specifically.

Different kinds of Frames in NLP

Agreement Frame

“I agree and...”
“I respect that and...”

Great for negotiating. Avoid the words “but” and “understand”

Purpose frame

“For what purpose?”

“I'm still holding back”. “Well, I'm curious as to what purpose you are holding yourself back”.

Helps people to find a positive intention or to understand themselves better.

What If Frame

Imagine you had changed already.

“What if you had everything you wanted already?”

Tag Questions

Put a phrase like “isn't it?” or “wouldn't it” to the end of the sentence.

Takes the attention away from the rest of the question, very good for overcoming resistance.

“This programme would be very effective in helping you overcome your fears and being the best person you could be, wouldn't it?”

Linguistic Presuppositions

Here are some linguistic presuppositions, and some questions you can ask to get around them. The "tip offs" are clues that this is what the person is doing.


Tip off - nouns

Client says “I have x”
I ask “When do you NOT have x?”
“How do you know when you DON'T have x?”

Any time you ask a question that forces the client to look beyond the problem itself, it creates progress.

Anything you can do to make the client look beyond the existence of their problem, you're succeeding.

Keep an eye out for abstract nouns and nominalisations – i.e. problem, anxiety, depression – things you can't “grab hold of”.

Possibility / Impossibility

Tip off – Modal Operators

i.e. “I can” / “I can't”
“I could never do this”

These are belief statements! Have to help them find the internal resources to succeed.


i.e. “I have to do this”
“I must stop smoking”
What is causing you to choose to have to do this?


Tip off – Makes, If, Then

Often we create reasons in our mind why things happened. Science says that we can't prove ANYTHING to the tune of 100% - so what do we know?!

In social interaction, we can never prove anything to a likely percentage at all. We don't know what caused what. It's best not to speculate!

When clients are at effect to a cause, they believe that this is out of their control.

We want to help our clients be at cause! This is how they will get their power back.

The clues for cause-effect are REASONS, JUSTIFICATIONS AND EXCUSES!

There is typically a time-line – i.e. A caused me to do B.

Complex Equivalence

Tip off -Is, Means

Anything with the word 'is' tends to be a complex equivalence

This is a major distortion - when you equate two things to be the same:

“This chair is comfortable” presupposes that the comfort is in the chair itself – but it's not, it's me attributing the comfort to the chair.

“She is beautiful” presupposes that she is objectively beautiful, but she's not, I'm projecting my map of the world onto her.

“You being here today means that you truly value success!”

There is no timeline here, they happen at the same time. This can be very powerful in motivation.


Tip off -Verbs with VAKOG

Any word that has a sense of feeling, smelling, hearing etc requires awareness.

“I know they are talking about me” - presupposes an awareness.

“Scientific studies show...”

“Horses enjoy hunting”

Semantic primes are words that are PACKED with meaning... i.e. scientific studies


Tip off -Verb Tense, Stop, Now, Yet

Any sentence that has a verb in it has TIME.

i.e. stop, now, yet, used to

You get people to think through different points in time.

“yet” and “stop” are very POWERFUL words, they tend to freeze our processes. “Now” brings us into the present.

Adjective / Adverb

These are words that modify a noun or a verb, which can change the entire representation.

They can even change your memories! All of memories are deleted, distorted and generalised anyway.

“how fast was the speeding car going?” presupposes the car was speeding!

Inclusive / Exclusive OR

Tip off – Or

Inclusive includes option

Exclusive excludes options

“Would you like tea or coffee before we start the session?”Double bind – the only thing presupposed here is that there WILL be a session starting – this is exclusive.

“This is the only option”
This is exclusive too


Ordinal is a list.

“Now, the third step is X”
Presupposes that we have already taken the first two steps.

Milton Model

This is a method of using hypnotic language to get better results. Great communicators are masters of language.

When you speak to a group you want to gain rapport with the whole group. If you go in too specific, you can alienate the group. So the key is to use abstract language and let the group make their own meanings from what you say.

The Milton Model uses language that is “artfully vague”, which causes the listener to go on their own internal search (trans-derivational search - TDS) to make meaning of it. If you use a lot of vague terms stacked on top of each other, people will tend to go into trance. If we can help get the conscious mind out of the way, we can make great progress.

Most advertising has load of Milton Model language in it!! It is a very powerful way of using language.

Milton Eriksson was one of the world's greatest hypnotists. These are the pieces that make up his style.

PS - the binaural beats examples are just the ideas I was playing with when taking my notes, as I'm setting up a small website about them too.

Mind Reads

This is where you claim to know the thoughts or feelings of another person.

“I know that you want to live to your potential”
“I understand that you want to earn more money and enjoy life more”

This is a good way to pace a group, build rapport and maintain rapport.

Lost Performative

Value judgements where the person valuing is left out of the statement.

“It's best to take time to do the exercise”
“It's important to focus on personal development”
“It's good to look into NLP”
“To succeed requires effort and perseverance”

“It's said that those with quality pens have more respect for themselves”

Cause & Effect

“You are here because you want to make changes in your life”
“As you read this, you can begin to learn”

Complex Equivalence

Where you equate two things to be the same, with no timeline i.e. “is”, “means”

“You being on this website means you are interested in improving your life”
“Your interest in personal growth is a virtue”


Statements you presuppose to be true

“After reading this site, you'll realise that personal growth is fun and rewarding”
“After trying out some of the exercises, you'll realise that you can succeed much quicker”

Modal Operators (Possibility and Necessity)

Could, have to, should, must

“People can improve just by reading the articles and stimulating their unconscious mind”
“When you discover the benefits of binaural beats, you'll know that you have to try them out”


Process words that are frozen in time – i.e. curiosity, health, crime, profit, love, wisdom, decision

“Binaural beats help you to improve your health and well-being”
“Personal development improves inner wisdom and stimulates curiosity”
“Binaural beats help your health and will help you reach success”
“Binaural Beats have beauty and wisdom within them”

Unspecified Verbs

Use a verb but don't say HOW it will happen

“Binaural Beats improve lives with minimal effort”
“People can change easily, and you can too”

Tag Questions

A question added after a statement, designed to replace resistance

“Improving your sleep patterns and lowering your anxiety levels would be beneficial, wouldn't it?”
“Feeling more confident would be a good thing, wouldn't it?”

Universal Quantifiers

Includes everything! Everybody, all the time, never, always, nobody

“Everybody should focus on personal development”
“Binaural Beats work for everybody, all the time”
“Binaural beats always make people relax”

Lack of Referential Index

A phrase which does not pick out a specific portion of the listener's experience – they say, people say, most people...

“They say that personal development can create powerful results”
“People love binaural beats”
“Most people who do personal development become happier”

Comparative Deletions

You make a comparison, but don't say what you're comparing to – better, nicer, faster, slower, number one, favourite

“NLP creates the fastest results”
“Binaural beats work faster and stronger”
“Binaural beats are the fastest way to decrease anxiety”

Pacing Current Experience

Make statements that are undeniable in the other person's experience. Helps to gain rapport and create a “yes set”.

“You are sitting at your computer, reading this article and becoming aware that you can make significant changes”
“You are interested in Binaural Beats and are keen to find out more”

Double Bind

Client given two choices, but both create the desired result

“Would you like Binaural Beats or Isochronic Tones?”
“Would you prefer the strongest or fastest-acting binaural beats?”
“You can try Binaural Beats or Isochronic Tones in any order you wish”

Gives the illusion of choice – a very powerful structure.

Conversational Postulates

Closed yes / no question, and the purpose is to direct someone's mind to think of something in particular (a certain possibility)

“Do you feel this is something that would help you?”
“Do you believe that Binaural Beats could make you feel better?”
“Do you think that Binaural Beats would be of value to you?”

Extended Quotes

Quotes which are extended beyond what is normally used to displace resistance.

“Last week I was talking to a friend who had recently tried BB for the first time, who had also just run into someone who had just brought their first BB, who had originally found BB on my other website, and after they had found out they both knew me they realised that together BB had become a very valuable and effective tool in combatting their insomnia and anxiety. They are fans now. Do you think that it could be the same for you?”

Selectional Restriction Violation

A sentence that is not well formed, by giving animate qualities to something that is inanimate. It allows our minds to give life to things that are life-less!

“The profits are soaring”
“The walls have ears”
“Binaural Beats are friends to the brain”
“Brains are happy after using BB”

These creates imagery in your mind and takes more processing time.


Metaphors are stories. We've always used metaphors to tell stories and share lessons, morals and values. Often, a metaphor is the best way to communicate with a client – because by telling a story you bypass conscious resistance.

Two types – overt (surface) and covert (deep)

Overt metaphors can be motivational, but typically the effects tend to pass quickly. You can use these in business / sales to help someone switch their state i.e. the Colonel Sanders story about never giving up. These can inspire, change state, re-frame, teach, install strategies, access internal resources.

In covert metaphors the meaning isn't as obvious, and often involves telling a story that is totally different to the current situation, but the unconscious will search for meaning. The unconscious mind LOVES symbols. The right story can make a HUGE impact.

We use metaphors to get from the present state to a desired state. What the client likes or thinks is important!!

Questions to ask when designing metaphors:

1)What is this present state an example of? (Chunking up – i.e. bed wetting could be lack of control, lack of self-esteem, lack of knowledge)

2)What is another example of that? (No conscious connection)

3)What are the resources needed to get to the desired state?

i.e. problem: I learn new stuff and then get overwhelmed and my mind starts to wonder

This could be lack of focus, distraction, confusion, sensory overload

What are other examples of this? (i.e. getting out in a fire alarm, being lost in the forest, no sense of direction, being caught in a tornado)

Making Metaphors Work

1)present state
2)desired state
3)what prevents you? How is that a problem?
4)What's of interest or value to you? What's important to you?
5)Create metaphor – bridge the gap to new resources
6)Deliver metaphor

Meta Model

Tries to clear up the unspecific and muddled-ness of the Milton Model!

People think when they speak they are being perfectly clear, but that is not often the case.

The Meta Model allows you to be very specific.

It helps you to do two things:
1)Gather more info and get past deletions, distortions and generalisations
2)Act as a tool for change

When we talk, there is a “surface structure” which is based on the “deep structure”.

What comes out our mouths is a specific thought which has been turned into a general thought, which is then deleted, distorted and generalised.

It's bloody Chinese Whispers!

You need to find out what people TRULY want.
i.e. “I want to be successful”
What does that mean? How will you know when you get there? What does it look like? Need to get specific.


Usually the most problematic. With a client, go to these first.

Mind Reading – claim to know the thoughts and feelings of somebody else

i.e. “you don't like me”
i.e. “how do you know?” - This recovers the source of the info

Lost Performative – value judgements where the person doing the judging is left out

i.e. “it's bad to be inconsistent”
i.e. “according to whom?” or “how do you know that?” - Gathers evidence, and recovers the source of the belief.

Cause – Effect – Where cause is wrongly put outside the self i.e. “you make me sad”

i.e. “How does what I'm doing cause you to choose to feel sad?” (VERY STRONG QUESTION, BE CAREFUL WITH IT) “How specifically do I do this?” - Recovers the choice


Universal Quantifiers – Generalisations that include all, every, always, never, everyone

i.e. “she never listens to me”
i.e. “never?” “what would happen if she did?” - recovers counter examples, effects, outcomes

Modal Operators of Necessity – Should, would, must

i.e. “I have to take care of her”
i.e. “What would happen if you didn't?” “or what?” - recovers effects, outcomes

Modal Operators of Possibility – Can, can't, will, won't, may, may not, possible, impossible

i.e. “I can't tell him the truth”
i.e. “What stops you?” “What would happen if you did?” - Recovers cause


Nominalizations – process words which have been frozen in timei.e. “there is no communication here” “he doesn't show any signs of wisdom:

i.e. “who's not communicating what to whom?” “how would you like to communicate” / “who isn't showing wisdom?” “how would you like to see him demonstrate his wisdom?” - turns it back into a process, recovers deletion, establishes referential index

Unspecified Verbs – i.e. he rejected me
i.e. “how specifically?” - specifies the verb

Simple Deletions – i.e. I am uncomfortable
i.e. “about what / whom?” - recovers deletion

Lack of Referential Index – Fails to specify a person or thing - “they don't listen to me”

i.e. “who specifically doesn't listen to you?” - recovers referential index

Comparative Deletions – As is good, better, strongeri.e. “she's a better person”

i.e. “compared to whom?” “better at what?” - recovers comparative deletion


“Why?” is unpredictable. It gives permission for deletions, distortions and generalisations to pop up. AVOID IT!

Hierarchy of Ideas

We need to think in terms of specifics and also in terms of “global” thinking.

We can chunk up and chunk down. “Logical levels” are the horizontal level i.e. dog, cat, fish on same logical level.

“life form” and “sausage dog” are on different logical levels.

If you change something at the top, it effects every level below it.

If you change something at the bottom, it doesn't effect any of the levels above.

When you have a big idea, you need to chunk down to work out specifics.

Chunking Up Questions:

For what purpose?
What is the intention?
What is this an example of?
What would that do for you?

Chunking Down Questions:

What or whom specifically?
What are examples of this?
Any meta model questions

i.e. when someone sets an outcome, you want to chunk up and find the emotion behind the outcome – it's important to find the higher level drive.

Well, if you're still with me - WELL DONE! Today was a pretty intense day, but the power of language is undeniable. Learn to use some of these techniques, and your powers of communication will grow massively!

Check out my notes on anchoring tomorrow!

NLP Practitioner Notes - Day One

NLP Practitioner Notes - Day Two

NLP Practitioner Notes - Day Three

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