Academic journal article British and American Studies

Mapping across Nlp Meta Program Clusters for Maintaining Business Rapport

Academic journal article British and American Studies

Mapping across Nlp Meta Program Clusters for Maintaining Business Rapport

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Meta programs are filters that determine our perception of the outside world. They have a major influence on how we communicate with others and the behaviours we manifest. They define typical patterns in the strategies or thinking styles of an individual, company or culture. Etymologically, meta comes from the Greek preposition pezá which is used in English with the meaning after, beyond, over, above, or on a different level. These interpretations suggest we are operating at an unconscious level, since the prefix meta is used to indicate a concept which is an abstraction from another concept, used to complete or add to the latter. Meta programs are deeply rooted mental programs that automatically filter our experiences and guide and direct our thought processes, resulting in significant differences in behaviour from person to person.

The way we use language and our cultural beliefs and experiences to filter the outside world makes up our map of reality (O'Connor and Seymour 2002:5). The language itself is a filter and we act according to some perceptual filters, called meta programs (Knight 2002, Molden and Hutchinson 2006). Thus, most NLP researchers agree that one can identify other people's meta programs through their linguistic cues and behaviour. In a particular context, people are likely to prefer certain meta program patterns to others. Nevertheless, the interactants' communicative preferences can be easily changed to suit any new situation and can be displayed along several dimensions. From a linguistic point of view, each of the NLP patterns is characterized by specific verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs and phrases.

In Business English, it is very interesting to study their application in the context of workplace, strongly focusing on company culture and everyday business relationships. Such meta programs have been categorized into motivation traits - dealing with patterns that determine people to take action, and working traits - approaching the common thinking patterns and mental processing that people use in a given situation.

The paper explores the way in which business people who share the same language profile can display similar behaviour patterns; the specific words and phrases that have the greatest impact on a person's behaviour are analyzed. Bailey (qtd. in Charvet 1997: 31-35) refers to this as the language and behaviour profile, or LAB profile.2

2. The General - Specific Pattern

Rodger Bailey's research on meta programs at the workplace identifies a pattern which determines the level of specificity or generality in people's thinking styles. The pattern defines what scope of information people work with, and how they perform at their best based on the right amount of information. In other words, do people prefer to work with details or with the big picture?

According to NLP, "Situations may be analyzed in terms of varying degrees of detail (micro chunks of information) and generalities (macro chunks of information). Too much focus on details leads people to lose sight of the 'big picture'. Similarly, an overemphasis on generalities can compromise and weaken the ability to 'follow through', because you can't see the discrete steps" (Dilts and DeLozier 2000:757).

The General - Specific Meta Program, also known as Big Chunk - Small Chunk in NLP, makes use of questions to elicit a certain level of information. Thus, the question What is that an example of! overviews the situation and corresponds to chunking up. A question like What would be an example of this? breaks the information into smaller components and refers to chunking down. One can identify a person's general / specific pattem by asking him/her about ways of improving customer communications, for instance. The person using specific patterns in the example below prefers small chunks of information and follows a sequence step-by-step. As Bavister and Vickers (2004:58) explain in their book Teach Yourself NLP, "If you interrupt someone with a specific pattem when they're telling you something they usually need to start from the beginning again. …

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