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NLP - Modeling


NLP, stands for Neuro Linguistic Programming, is an art and a science, developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the early 1970s. Together, Richard and John asked a simple yet deep question, “How does one person get results, and the other person doesn’t?” Two people sitting in the same room, receiving the same knowledge by the same people, are unable to get similar results on the same examination. One passes with flying colours, while the other just barely manages to pass. Why so? Or to be precise, how so? To answer this seemingly simple question, they started by modelling three outstandingly successful people in the domain of therapy: Fritz Perls (the pioneer of Gestalt therapy), Virginia Satir (the founder of family treatment and systemic therapy), and Milton Erickson (founder of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis). Ofcourse, these geniuses couldn’t present John and Richard with a conscious description of how they do what they do, since it came unconsciously to them, therefore the modelers (Grinder and Bandler) tried to unconsciously incorporate those distinct patterns of working and then tried to explicate it.

Modelling is the core activity in NLP, and is the process of extricating and replicating the language structure and behavioural patterns of an individual who is excellent at a given activity. What this means is that there are obvious distinct patterns of behavior and communication that successful people engage in, and unsuccessful people don’t. NLP is basically a series of modelled behavior which helps us learn that pattern or behavior and communication, where one needs to find a successful person, discover how they do what they do, learn how to incorporate that in oneself and learn to teach that to others.

NLP, then, is the practice of understanding how people organise their thinking, feeling, language and behaviour to produce the results they do. The belief is that if an individual can understand how another person accomplishes a task, the process may be copied and communicated to others so they too can accomplish the task. NLP has created techniques and distinctions for figuring out and describing patterns of people's verbal and nonverbal behaviour, or vast aspects of what they say and do. NLP's most important dreams are to mannequin specific or magnificent competencies and useful resources and then transfer it to others. The aim of this kind of modelling is to put what has been viewed and articulated into motion in a beneficial and enriching way. We can realize precise, repeatable patterns in the language and behaviour of those in advantageous positions and then fashion it into a methodology for those who need it.

As they say in NLP, ‘The map is not the territory’, meaning that the reality is way different than our belief about it. We don’t know what is real, we have just formed a ‘map’ of it for our understanding. Each of us have different maps, and we all operate according to our own perspectives rather than the objective reality. Therefore, while modeling a genius’ behavior, we don’t focus on their map's 'accuracy' but its 'usefulness'. Rather than arriving at a single 'right' or 'true' depiction of a specific person's behavior, we select simply what’s going to benefit the modeler, or what’s going to make the modeler’s map efficient in obtaining a goal.


These are some of the few applications of modeling:

1. It aids in better understanding something by increasing 'meta-cognition' about the process.

2. Specifying the actions taken by expert performers or during optimal examples of the activity in order to repeat or refine a performance (such as in a sport or as a manager).

3. It enables us to attain specific outcomes that can be extremely varied, and it can aid in the treatment of phobias and allergies. Rather than imitating a single person, this is frequently accomplished by building 'techniques' based on the modelling of a variety of successful people.

4. Extracting and formalizing a process in order to apply it to a different context. For example, an effective strategy for managing a sports team can be applied to manage a business, or vice versa.

5. Looking for inspiration from something which is based on the process of modelling. For example - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's portrayal of Sherlock Holmes was based on the diagnostic methods of his medical school professor Joseph Bell.


Creating an effective model of a specific behaviour requires more than imitation. Depending on the goal of modelling, numerous different levels of data may be necessary to accomplish the intended performance or application.

When modelling a human, we try to look at a variety of distinct features, or levels, of the numerous systems and subsystems in which that person operates. We can look at the individual's historical and geographical context, as well as when and where they operate. We can look at the person's precise behaviours, or what they do in that situation. We can also take a look at the intellectual side of things, or can further explore the beliefs and values that motivate and shape the thinking strategies and capabilities that the individual has developed to accomplish their behavioral goals in the environment. We could also look deeper to investigate the individual's perception of the self, or the identity they manifest through that set of beliefs. We might also want to examine the way in which identity manifests itself in relationship to the individual's family, colleagues, and contemporaries etc. Or how do the behaviors, abilities, beliefs, values and identity of the individual influence and interact with larger systems of which they are a part. The way to visualize the relationships between these elements is through a network of generative systems that mainly focuses on the identity of the individual as the core of the modeling process.


Modeling often demands to make a "double" or "triple" description of the process or phenomenon we are attempting to recreate.

 NLP states three perceptual positions from which information can be gathered and interpreted-

  • First position (associated in one's own perspective),

  • Second position (perceiving the situation from the point of view of another person)

  • Third position (viewing the situation as an outsider ).

All these perspectives are essential for effective behavioral modeling.

nlp modeling

There is also a fourth perceptual position that involves perceiving a situation from the perspective of the whole system, involved in the situation. As mentioned before, because NLP states that "the map is not the territory," that "everyone forms their own individual map of a situation," and that there is no single "right" map of any particular experience or event, being mindful of multiple perspectives is an essential skill in order to effectively model a particular performance or activity. Perceiving a situation or experience from multiple perspectives helps a person to gain deeper insight and understanding with respect to the event.

Modeling from a 'first position' perspective would entail trying something out for ourselves and examining how "we'' do it. From our own vantage point, we see, hear, and feel what the model is doing. It is basically when someone decided to learn how to play the guitar from YouTube. We try to copy the models’ hand movements as much as we can. Second-person modelling is putting oneself "in the shoes' ' of the person being modelled and attempting to think and act as closely as feasible. This can give valuable insights into significant but unspoken aspects of the person being modeled- their thoughts and actions. This may involve the modeler trying to also absorb and incorporate how the model is feeling while playing a particular song on the guitar. As an uninvolved witness, modelling from the 'third position' would include standing back and witnessing the person being modelled interacting with other people (including ourselves). In the third posture, we put our personal judgments aside and focus on the task at hand. Similar to how scientists might objectively examine a particular phenomenon through a telescope or microscope. 'Fourth position' involves a type of intuitive synthesis of all of these perspectives, in order to get a sense for the entire 'gestalt'.


Coming back to when Grinder and Bandler met. Richard Bandler had been intuitively "implicitly" modeling the linguistic skills of Fritz Perls and Virginia Satir through video tapes and direct experience. He was being able to influence people with his language, which he had in turn acquired from the abovementioned geniuses, but he didn’t exactly know what he was doing, i.e., he was unable to explicitly describe what he was doing. That is when Grinder, impressed by Bandler’s skill, offered to teach him what he is doing, if Bandler is willing to teach him to do what he is doing. Not clear? Grinder basically offered Bandler that if the latter helped him to develop the implicit intuitions, or the 'unconscious competence’ that he possessed, he (Grinder) could help him explicitly describe those patterns and processes. NLP, then, was born from this very union of implicit and explicit modeling.

Clearly, it's possible to model cognitive and behavioural talents "implicitly" or "explicitly." Implicit modeling involves primarily moving to the second perceptual position with the model in order to build personal intuitions about that individual's subjective experience. Explicit modeling, on the other hand, involves moving to the third perceptual position to describe the explicit structure of the model’s experience so that it may be transferred to others.

Implicit modelling is largely an inductive process by which we take in and interpret patterns in the environment. Explicit modelling is a deductive method with the aid of which we describe and put these perceptions into practice. Both approaches are critical for tremendous modeling. Without the "implicit" phase, there is no fantastic instinct base from which to construct an "explicit" model.

According to NLP co-founder John Grinder "It is not possible to make a description of the grammar of a language about which you have no intuition." On the other hand, barring the "explicit" phase, the data that has been modeled can't be constructed into strategies or equipment and transferred to others. Implicit modeling via itself will assist a man or woman to increase personal, unconscious competence with the favored conduct (the way that younger kids generally learn). Creating a technique, method or ability set that can be taught or transferred to others past oneself, however, requires some degree of specific modeling.


There are three phases of modeling:

  • Phase 1: Observing the model- In this phase, one imagines oneself in the reality of a genius. The emphasis here is on “what” the person does (behavior and physiology), “how” they do it (internal thinking strategies), and “why” they do it (supporting beliefs and assumptions). The model's representational systems, based in turn on the senses (VAKOG) is observed, along with their strategies (sequence of mental representations), physiological components (like states and body postures), meta-programs (filtering processes), values and beliefs, reference structures (the necessary background knowledge), etc.

  • Phase 2: To find the difference what made the difference- This phase is not relevant if the results are obtained without it. This step includes explicitly modeling how the model is producing the results, by systematically following them. Some of the primary questions that one can ask in order to differentiate between what is relevant and what is not, are:

• What are the behavioral patterns of the genius?

• How did they come to be profitable?

• What did they do that is so unique from an individual who is now not successful?

• What is the primary element that created all the difference?

  • Phase 3: Design a method to teach the skill- After one has learnt it all, and has both explicitly and implicitly incorporated the behavior and communication patterns of the genius, they need to put it all together and display it in a model, which they (and the others) can go back to when in need. If you tried to make a cake via placing it in the oven before actually mixing the elements together, it is going to taste bad. Yet we assume we can educate separate factors of capabilities out of sequence and out of context and succeed, which is just not true. What we need is a model.


Strategies help us accomplish tasks by organizing our thoughts and behaviors in certain ways. They are programs that run inside of us, which we use subconsciously. In modeling, strategies can be divided into two types. Micro modeling strategies entail modeling individual components of a single talent, say a simple behavioural, cognitive, or linguistic capacity; for example a public speaker. Macro modeling strategies, on the other hand, entail recognising the individual talents that make up a larger or more complicated system. "Leadership" is an example of a complex ability as it will further entail complex behavioural, cognitive, and linguistic skills.

Modeling Techniques in Practice:

(a) recognising the main characteristics that individuals with the ability to attain a specific result or outcome possess.

(b) identifying the specific persons who would benefit from being able to acquire those skills and attain those outcomes.

(c) Identifying which of those attributes are most important to the people who need the talent or desire to get the job done.

A common strategy to applying modeling is to first identify a need or problem that needs to be addressed, then find or choose individuals who have the skills or resources to effectively solve the need or problem. NLP's general modelling process entails first creating an intuition base about a certain behaviour or capacity by "implicitly" modelling (mainly through "second position") the people who possess the requisite abilities until the desired results are achieved.


The following steps can be used to outline the basic aspects of the NLP modelling process:-

I. Identify the human professionals who will be modelled and the instances in which they will use the modelled capacity.

2. Establish and raise enough data gathering methods in applicable settings and from a number of perceptual perspectives.

3. Examine the information-gathering effects for cognitive and behavioural patterns that are relevant.

4. Organize the patterns into a logical, coherent shape or "model."

5. Evaluate the model's overall performance and utility through placing it to take a look at in a range of contexts and scenarios, making sure that you get the predicted results.

6. Reduce the mannequin to its most simple and stunning shape whilst nonetheless attaining the preferred goals.

7. Determine the most advantageous techniques for transferring, or "installing," the express competencies observed via the modelling approach.

8. Determine the most gorgeous contraptions for measuring the model's outcomes, as nicely as the model's validity boundaries or 'edge.'

steps of modeling


Dilts, R. (1998). Article of the Month Page. The Article Of The Month.

Gestalt, A. T. N. A. (2021, May 6). NLP Modeling. Anil Thomas | NLP.

The 5 Steps to Modelling geniuses. (2012, March 28). [Video]. YouTube.


This article on ' NLP - Modeling ' has been contributed by Sukriti Bansal who is a student of Psychology from University of Lucknow. and peer reviewed by Saumya Joshi who is a psychology student from Vivekananda College, Delhi University.

Sukriti and Saumya are both part of the Global Internship Research Program (GIRP), which is mentored by Anil Thomas.

Sukriti 's future plan is to Learn Psychology and raise awareness in subject .

Saumya is a psychology enthusiast.

GIRP is an initiative by (International Journal of Neurolinguistics & Gestalt Psychology) IJNGP and Umang Foundation Trust to encourage young adults across our globe to showcase their research skills in psychology and to present it in creative content expression.

Anil is an internationally certified NLP Master Practitioner and Gestalt Therapist. He has conducted NLP Training in Mumbai, and across 6 other countries. The NLP practitioner course is conducted twice every year. To get your NLP certification 


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