As human beings we have a tendency to be creatures of habit. This doesnt just apply to our behaviours it also applies to our thoughts, feelings, beliefs and attitudes. Meta-Program is a term used in NLP to describe a persons habitual thinking patterns. By gaining an understanding and becoming skilled at using Meta-Programs it will allow you to package your message in such a way that it is fully understood and acted upon.
There are many different types of Meta-Programs that can act as a guide to predicting how people will think and behave in particular situations. As it would be impossible to describe all of these in this article I would like to concentrate on outlining 2 powerful Meta-Programs that you can use to become a more influential communicator.
Meta-Program 1 Is the person a Matcher?
A Matcher is someone who, when you communicate to them, will go inside and search for something that is similar to what you said. In any situation they try to see how something is like something else. When you are presenting an idea to someone who is a matcher a classic response would be:
Oh yeah, thats a bit like such and such etc or
How does that fit with this or
Tell me what that is similar to
A matcher will always attempt to compare your idea with something that they already know and look for similarities. At the extreme matchers can be so focused on sameness that they fail to see obvious disadvantages in ideas.
My girlfriend is a fairly heavy matcher. When you walk into our house everything matches down to the finest detail!! Carpets, furniture, curtains, walls and if something is ever out of place or mismatches she feels a compelling urge to re-arrange it!
When you notice that you are communicating with a matcher the following communication methods will be extremely effective:
1.Use Comparison words in your language, for example: Like, similar, same.
2.Use analogies, metaphors and stories to explain your ideas. This will let them see how your idea is like something else.
Meta-Program 2 Is the person a Mismatcher?
At the other end of the scale from the matcher is the mismatcher. A mismatcher is someone who, when you communicate to them, will take in the information and see how it is different to what they already know. A mismatchers focus on life is usually on seeing how things are different. For example, a few years ago I was on an outward bound course in the north of Scotland. We had been divided into groups and set the task of building the optimum raft. I was in a group of 6 and we immediately began to brainstorm. Initially the brainstorming session was going very well then, all of a sudden, one of our group members started ripping our ideas and suggestions to shreds. He said things like:
That wont work because .. and
Yeah but you didnt think of this . and
What if this was to happen, that would wreck everything ..
He seemed completely focused on ruining every idea we came up with!
Weve all experience these types of people before havent we? Someone who seems determined to focus on all the areas where your idea wont work!
These types of people are called Mismatchers. At the extreme a mismatcher will do the exact opposite of anything you ask them to do. These types of mismatchers are called polarity responders. So does that make mismatchers useless members of a team or unproductive human beings?
Of course not! It just means that they have to be managed and communicated with in a completely different way to that of matchers.
The following are tips for communicating effectively to mismatchers:
1.Use them as fault finders: – Leave them out of brainstorming activities; they will only hamper the creative flow of ideas. Bring them in once the ideas have been formed and ask them to analyse them for areas that could be improved.
2.Phrase your requests and ideas in the negative: – Say things like:
I dont know if this is something youd like to be involved in
This may not be for you but Ill let you see it and you can let me know what you think
You wouldnt want to be involved would you?
3.For polarity responders (extreme mismatchers) use reverse psychology. Tell them to do the exact opposite of what you want them to do.