Skip to main content


By May 1, 2015Newsletters

Limiting beliefs often prevent people from working through their issues, providing blocks to development and growth. This article provides you with tools to help people unlock these unhelpful beliefs.

Human face with question mark illustration on white backgroundOne of the key challenges that people who are taking part in coaching need to overcome is to let go of their limiting beliefs – the unhelpful and usually inaccurate beliefs that often prevent them from making progress with troublesome issues in their lives. However, the more a limiting belief is questioned the more its power is weakened so that eventually it looses its grip on the coachee.

Meta-model linguistic patterns is a fancy term for the language that can be used to help people re-evaluate their limiting beliefs. It can be used in response to three main language categories.

Statements by coachees that distort the truth of situations.

They include:
Mind-reads – statements that ‘read the thoughts’ of another person, rather than relying on facts.
Lost performative – statements that have no ownership.
Cause and effect – statements that incorrectly link one action to another in a causal way.
Complex equivalent – statements that inaccurately make one action equal to another.

Statements by coachees that generalize without appropriate evidence.

They include:
Universal quantifiers – statements that create sweeping generalizations.
Modal operators of necessity and possibility – statements that imply compulsion or lack of choice.

Statements by coachees that leave vital details out.

They include:
Comparative deletion – statements that make comparisons without specifying the factor that something is being compared to.
Nominalizations – statements that infer rather that specify the person, team, organization etc being referred to.

The table available here: Surgical precision table provides worked examples of all the above, showing how a coachee’s response can be challenged through the use of Surgical Precision Coaching Skills to help free them of their limiting beliefs.

Why not use these worked examples of meta-model linguistic patterns with your colleagues to help them gain new insights into previously ‘closed’ issues in their professional lives?

This kind of questioning can be challenging. That is the whole point of it. It works well provided it’s used sparingly and in the context of having really good rapport with someone.
Save this kind of questioning until you have developed the rapport and ease the impact of such questions with phrases like:

Permission: Would it be ok to ask more about what you’ve just said? What’s causing you to choose to believe that?
Dissociation: Could I just play devil’s advocate with what you have just said? What’s stopping you?
Softening frames: I’m curious…who says that’s true?

Used wisely these are superb perspective shifters for people. If you would like to learn more about advanced linguistics, then either our NLP or Advanced Coaching courses are packed with tools like these.

Contact us about courses