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Beginners Guide to Modelling with NLP Part One – Myths of Modelling

Modelling (not catwalk modelling:-)) has to be one of the most underutilised skills in the field of NLP. I think because of how effective the techniques are in NLP modelling often gets forgotten.

It seems to be rapidly changing into some lost treasure hidden in a far far away land in a far far away time. Something that was once hailed as magnificent and enchanting but is now becoming a bit of a fading memory and lost art.

This is a HUGE shame as modelling, in my opinion, is one of the most useful skill sets you can develop.

Modelling is essential a way of ‘mapping out’ how a person does something and then using this map to either learn this ‘something’ for yourself or teach someone else to do it in a fraction of the time it would normally take.

It’s about learning what a person does both on the inside (in terms of their thoughts, feelings and attitudes) and the outside (physically with their body) in order to demonstrate the skill or ability you would like to develop or help someone else develop.

Modelling isn’t really an NLP technique, it’s more of a skill set driven by an attitude of curiosity and fascination and I think that’s what initially puts some people off. It’s difficult to model using a step by step technique or process. There are ‘models that help you model’ but the whole thing is an organic process and will almost always go places you don’t expect it to go.

There is a LOT to modelling. It can be both simple and complex. It can range from just listening to a mentor or someone you admire to a full blown modelling project where you map out in detail how a person does what they do.

It’s fascinating, thrilling and at times a little chaotic. Just when you think you’re getting lost something pops up that completely changes your perception and broadens your mental map of the world.

I’m going to be writing more about modelling in the future as it’s a vast and immensely useful subject and one I’m very passionate about. To start with though, I’d like to explain some of the ‘Myths of Modelling’. There are a few and it does kind of bug me when people get the wrong impression about it.

The myths of modelling


Myth 1 -Modelling is copying

A lot of people think that modelling is copying. Sorry but they’ve mixed that up with another thing. It’s called stealing!

To blatantly copy someone’s style and content is not modelling its plagiarism. There is a distinct difference between modelling and copying. Modelling is where you learn a skill and/or mindset from someone in less time than it normally takes using what can be a variety of different methods and then integrate that skill and/or mindset back into your own personality. In other words…modelling is about creating something new.

You may replicate the results the person gets but you do it in a way where you mix in your own personality, style and skill sets. It’s an understandable mistake people make as one of the steps in modelling is to literally ‘become your model’ like an actor becomes his role. It doesn’t end there though and the purpose is to integrate the learnings back into your own unique way of doing things (hence creating something new for the world to experience).

Modelling is also more about learning and integrating a person’s structure and the process by which they do things rather than simply just regurgitating their content. Again, the later is called stealing. To give you an example. Say you wanted to write a book. To model would be to study the structure and process a skilled author uses to weave their story (their mind set, sentence structure, use of language etc) then use that structure to deliver your own content and ideas. Copying would be to use their plot line or a very close version of it and just change the characters names.

These are two completely different things. The first is modelling, the second is plagiarism. There are a lot of people out there who say they are modelling when they are in fact just being unoriginal.

Myth two – When you model you get a complete map of how the person does something

It would be lovely if you could develop a complete map of how someone does something, it really would but, first of all, I don’t think that’s possible and secondly it’s not your main purpose when you’re modelling. A model is an ever-evolving approximation of how a person does what they do. Both the mindset they operate from and how they physically do it on the outside.

Your most important goal when you model is to duplicate in some way the results that they get and you don’t need a complete map to do this.

There are usually a few ‘key things’ that a person does on the inside and outside that are critical to the results they get. Effective modelling is about figuring out those ‘key things’. Sure, you can go back and get more details and make the map richer but it’s not essential.

Also, a person’s map never stays the same, it’s always evolving so there will always be more to learn. Let go of the need to ‘get a perfect model of how someone does something’ and look for the main things they do that make it work.

Myth three – You need to model celebrities for it to work

Modelling with NLP became famous because the initial models were very well known within the ‘people helping’ industry. Milton Erickson, Virginia Satir and Fritz Pearl to name three of the main ones. You really don’t have to have access to celebrities and the upper echelons of society (which is usually very difficult and often expensive) to effectively model. Everyone has genius in them. By the virtue of their life experiences, values and beliefs everyone will have things they do that they do exceptionally well and better than anyone else.

You could pick a dozen of your friends or work colleagues and you would have enough genius there to model for a very long time. It might be hidden and take a bit of uncovering but it’ll be there.

Myth four – When you model you have to do a big modelling project

Modelling is an attitude. When you engage your modelling curiosity you can start to model and learn every day. It might just be a little snippet of information you hear or a single question you ask someone that reveals something useful.

It’s nice to get your teeth into a big modelling project but it doesn’t have to be and it’s not where most of the benefits of modelling are. The biggest benefit is that it rapidly accelerates your learning and evolution as a person on a continual basis. By all means embark on a large modelling project that takes a bit more time but be aware that there are lots of little modelling projects you can do on a daily basis.

Everyday, as you interact with the world, you’re presented with opportunities to model and learn. When you open up your eyes and ears and think in a specific way you’ll find new learnings everywhere.

Myth Five – All modelling is done with A N other

Actually a lot of modelling is done on yourself. One of the beauties of it is that if you catch yourself doing something exquisitely then you can use modelling to capture it.

As you cultivate the attitude of curiosity and skills of modelling you become adept at piecing together and mapping out how you do what you do. Those times when ‘everything just clicked’ stop becoming just a one off or occasional occurrence and become something you can reproduce by design.

Myth Six – Modelling can help you learn a skill practically overnight

Again this isn’t completely accurate. You can model a person’s mindset and reproduce that pretty much straight away but learning a skill takes time.

When we say you can learn a skill ‘in a fraction of the time it normally takes’ what we mean is that a skill that originally took years to develop can be learned in months. Or a skill that originally took months to learn can be developed in weeks.

It’s not something you learn overnight but you can dramatically reduce the time it takes by modelling with NLP. For me, this is still incredible and the uses and implications are endless.

Modelling is definitely an art form and an incredibly useful one at that. Developing a modellers mind set and skill is different to ‘just using techniques’ but is far more useful in the long term.

At the end of the day NLP is really about human learning and evolution and modelling is absolutely the key skill set for accelerating that.

In Part two were going to look at – ‘How to model’ and ‘the different types of Modelling.’

Until then, all the best,

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