NLP Modelling Essentials


NLP Technique | Modelling

Modelling is probably the most important skill in NLP. Co founder Richard Bandler is often quoted as saying that NLP is mainly an attitude, often of curiosity, which leads to modelling good (or less good) performance which in turn leads to a trail of techniques. The techniques allow us to communicate what we’ve learnt through modelling to others.

When we’ve modelled how we or others have achieved the results we get, it’s very easy to suggest and test different approaches, to find out what works best in any circumstance.

The testing part is essential, it’s only by testing our work that we’re able to continually improve what we do.

We’re suggesting four approaches to modelling. Two are pure NLP approaches, two others have been added as we’ve found them exceptionally useful.

As with all NLP approaches think about what you want to achieve first. The three most common uses of modelling are:

  1. Developing techniques to improve performance
  2. Using modelling to improve ‘less good’ performance’
  3. Using modelling to get to understand or know someone better.

There is a truism. If you want to find out something simply ask and watch. If and then add the steps of  steps of test and improve you’re on the way to become a good modeller!

Our 4 recommended approaches are:

  1. Eliciting NLP strategies
  2. ‘Pure’ NLP modelling
  3. Robert Dilts Logical Levels
  4. Marshall Goldsmith;s feedforward.

What I find fascinating is that in may way ways 1) and 2) are opposites. In the first is about asking clean questions to determine the sequence of sensory information in getting a result. Its a very ‘logical’ approach. The second in some ways like learning as a child, and NOT having any internal dialogue to interrupt the process. However a similarity between both of them is the importance of being non judgemental.

Eliciting NLP Strategies

This is using meta model and strategy elicitation questions to identify the modality (sensory) sequence in achieving any result. In doing so choice points often become apparent, leading to surprisingly easy change.

The best way to become good at this this is through both continual practice of meta model and strategy elicitation questions and eliciting strategies. It really is about Practise. Practise. Practise.

Pure NLP Modelling

This is very well illustrated by the following Richard Bandler’s ‘Steal a Skill Technique:

from Richard Bandler’s Guide to TRANCE-formation

1 Decide on a role model – someone whose physical performance you would like to replicate. Spend as much time as possible studying your role model in the flesh, on video tape, or on DVD recordings. Simply relax while watching them, softening your vision and hearing and seeing the flow of the performance.

2 When you feel as familiar as possible with your role model’s performance, close your eyes, relax and recreate your role models performing a sequence of actions at the highest level of excellence. See and hear everything there is to build a model of that competence.

3 When you have watched this performance for some time, move around the mental image of your role model and step inside. Imagine that you are able to see through the eyes of excellence, hear through the ears of excellence and feel the feelings of excellence.

4 Run through the same sequence of actions but from within, noticing this time what your body feels as you do this. Repeat several times as you have a sense of familiarity.

5 Step out of your role model’s body, with the intention of retaining as much of the sill as possible as you return to normal working consciousness.

6 As soon as possible (and as much as possible) practice the borrowed skill, noticing how this exercise improves your performance.

7 Repeat the entire exercise, combining it with what-ever real time practice you do, at least once a day for the first 21 days, then at least once a week as maintenance

Robert Dilts Logical Levels

Firstly decide who you would like to model or what skills or capabilities you would like to develop. Remember NLP is about modelling the best – so set your sights high, you’ll be surprised who’ll see you if you come over as genuinely interested. And there are lots of others to see if they don’t.

Use a tape/mini disc recorder and preferably arrange to see people in their offices – I have some very interesting recordings in bars and clubs – but the background noise blanks out the content!! And remember to listen – sometimes questions that don’t make any sense to you get the best answers.

Mix and match the following question sets:


You’ve chosen someone because they’re good – so let them know, and keep any confidences that are important to them.

You have a reputation at being good at ‘people networking’ (adapt to your topic) are you happy that I ask you some questions about it?


Where and when do you do it?


What specifically do you do?

If you were going to teach me to do it, what would you ask me to do?


What skills do you have that enable you to do this?

How did you learn how to do this?


What do you believe about yourself when you do this?

What do you believe about the person you’re doing this to?


Do you have a personal mission or vision when you’re doing this?

Other questions

How do you know that you’re good at this?

What emotional and physical state are you in when you do this?

What happened for you to be good at this?

What are you trying to achieve when you do this?

Who else do you recommend I talk to about this?


When you have a certain experience in doing this – and the questions become automatic – you could choose to get into deep rapport with your subject and imagine what it would be like to actually ‘be’ your subject as they are describing what they do. – This is a step towards ‘true’ NLP modelling.

Marshall Goldsmith’s feedforward

Feedforward is an approach developed by Marshall Goldsmith to make it easier for us to continually improve what we do. It also overcomes the challenge that in normal circumstances we’re not to keen on either taking or giving feedback. For more read ‘What Got You Here Won’t Get You There’ by Marshall Goldsmith.

1.Pick one behaviour that you would like to change which would make significant, positive change in your life. For example, I want to be a better listener.

2.Describe this objective in a one-to-one dialogue with anyone . It could be your wife, kids, boss, best friend, or co-worker. It could even be a stranger. The person you choose is irrelevant. He or she doesn’t have to be an expert on the subject. For example you say, I want to be a better listener. Almost anyone in an organisation knows what this means. You don’t have to be an ‘expert’ on listening to know what good listening means to you.

Likewise he doesn’t have to be an expert on you. If you’ve ever found yourself on a seated next to a perfect stranger and proceeded to engage in earnest, heartfelt, and honest discussion of your problems with that stranger – or vice – versa-you know this is true. Some of the truest advice comes from strangers. We are all human beings. We know what is true. And when a useful idea comes along, we don’t care who the source is.

3.Ask that person for two suggestion for the future that might help you achieve a positive change in your selective behaviour – in this case becoming a better listener. If you’re talking to someone who knows you or has worked with you in the past, the only ground rule is that there can be no mention of the past. Everything is about the future.

For example, you say, I want to be a better listener. Would you suggest two ideas that I can implement in the future that will help me become a better listener? The other person suggests:

First, focus all your attention on the other person. Get into a physical position, the “listening position”, such as sitting on the edge of your seat or leaning forward towards the individual.

Second, don’t interrupt, no matter how you disagree with what your hearing.

These ideas represent feedforward.

4.Listen attentively to the suggestions. Take notes if you like. Your only ground rule: You are not allowed to judge, rate, or critique the suggestion in any way. You can’t even say something positive, such as, “That’s a good idea.” The only response your permitted is, Thank you.

Related Links

NLP Training
NLP Techniques
NLP Techniques | Success Quiz
NLP Techniques | Certification Presentation
NLP Techniques | Daily Questions
NLP Techniques | Hypnosis
NLP Techniques | Modelling (This page)
NLP Techniques | NLP Presuppositions
NLP Techniques | State
NLP Techniques | Storytelling
NLP Techniques | NLP Coaching Model


NLP Modelling

NLP Modelling