Written and Produced by Andy Bradbury
(author of "Develop Your NLP Skills", etc.)

- Q

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This glossary is designed to function at a very basic level, providing brief definitions, not detailed explanations.  It will be particulary useful to newcomers who have heard or read very little about NLP so far.  By the time you've read a half dozen of the better books you'll already know this stuff off by heart.

If there's anything you don't agree with, or which you think should be added, there is a "mail to" facility at the very end of this page.  All constructive comments will be welcome.

The Definitions:

Words in bold font are themselves explained somewhere within the glossary.

M | N | O | P | Q

Having achieved rapport with someone by matching and pacing their behaviour, you may then be able to change your own behaviour so as to lead that person in the direction you wish them to go.
One of the five Satir Categories.  A 'leveller' responds to situations honestly and openly, even the ones they don't like.  Unlike the bahaviour in the other four categories, levelling paves the way for constructive, creative, mutually beneficial relationships and effective resolutions to problem situations.
Virginia Satir estimated that some 4.5 per cent of the people in any group will be levellers.
Lost Performative
An alleged quote where the source is omitted thus making it impossible to determine the value of the statement.  For example: "Studies have shown that ...".  Which studies?  Carried out by whom?  When?  How many people were involved?
An element of the Meta Model.
Maps, Map Making
See Mental Maps.
Copying another person's behaviour (voice tone, body language, breathing pattern, etc.) for the purposes of creating and maintaining rapport.
Matching should always be done sparingly and discretely or it may well be spotted and interpreted as 'taking the mickey'.
Mental Maps
We experience the outside world only through our senses.  Moreover we can only consciously be aware of a relatively small part of the information our senses are taking in.  And even this small body of information is interpreted through mental filters such as deletion, distortion and generalisation, plus the various meta programs we are running at any given time.
Because of all these factors we are always reacting to our perceived view - or mental maps - of external reality rather than to reality itself.
These maps are useful or misleading according to how (more or less) accurate they are.  So it is always useful to remember that even a map that is 95% accurate is still a 'map'.
Meta Model
A model, developed by John Grinder and Richard Bandler, based on the (but not a direct copy of) ideas originated by linguist Noam Chomsky.  The basic idea behind the meta model and its use is that we usually say (surface structure) only a relatively small part of what we are thinking (deep structure).  Sometimes the surface structure version is all that we need to understand what someone means, but sometimes we need some additional deep structure information, and that is when we use the appropriate meta model questions, to open up clearer, more effective communication.
Grouped under three basic headings - Deletions, Distortions and Generalisations - the meta model covers a variety of misleading language patterns such as: Unspecified nouns, unspecified verbs, unqualified comparisons, unqualified absolutes and unquestioned rules, missing referential indices, etc., etc.  These are each described elsewhere in the glossary under the relevant headings: Deletions, Distortions, Generalisations, Nouns, unspecified, Verbs, unspecified,and so on.
Usually taken (in NLP) to mean a story - true or invented - designed to convey a message to the listener in a roundabout way so as to minimise resistence to the message.
In practice a major part of our daily conversation consists of metaphors:
"She was as mad as a wet hen" "I've finally cracked the problem" "It was like taking money from a baby" "You hit the nail on the head" and so on.
Meta Programs
The filters through which we 'strain' our information about the outside world in order to form perceptions.  The meta programs we use, and the way in which we use them tend change according to the context and over time.
The original set of some 60 meta programs is said to have been developed by Leslie Cameron-Bandler from the four pairs of characteristics in the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory.  This was reduced to about 29 in the Woodsmall & James book Timeline Therapy and the Basis of Personality, and then to 13 by Rodger Bailey - see Shelle Rose Charvet's book
Words that Change Minds.
Other core books on meta programs are Time Line Therapy and the Basis of Personality and People Pattern Power.  (PPP is specifically business oriented.) The current short list includes:
  • Towards / Away from
  • Proactive / Reactive
  • Options / Procedures
  • Sameness-Difference
  • Frame of Reference (internal-external)
  • Convincer Mode (or "channel")
  • Convincer Frequency
  • Tangible-Intangible
  • Primary Interest Pattern
  • Chunk Size (general-specific)
  • Match-Mismatch
  • Rule Structure
  • Working Style
Milton Erickson
See Erickson, Milton
Milton Model
A model of Milton Erickson's therapeutic techniques developed by John Grinder and Richard Bandler.  It should be noted that Milton Model is primarily concerned with spoken language rather than written language.
This is just one of several such models based on Erickson's work (see Taproots by William O'Hanlon) and should not be regarded as definitive.
A particular kind of matching.  In ordinary matching you move your left leg, then I move my left leg.  In mirroring, if you move your left leg I move my right leg.
As in all matching, mirroring should done sparingly and discretely.
Modal Operators 1 (of necessity)
Modal operators are the phrases we use to tell ourselves how things (allegedly) are.
Modal operators of necessity include self-talk phrases like:
"I must do this"
"I should do that"
and so on.
Modal Operators 2 (of possibility)
Modal operators of possibility include self-talk phrases like:
"I can do this"
"I'd never be able to do that"
Nested loops
The purpose of using nested loops is to hold the listener's (or listeners') attention whilst you give them information.  Using loops also helps to divert attention from the fact that this is a learning experience.
In simple terms, the technique involves telling several stories - but in an unusual manner:
Start story A - about halfway through, break off, give a brief piece of information, then ...
Start story B - about halfway through, break off, give a brief piece of information, then ...
Start story C - about halfway through, break off, give a brief piece of information, then ...
End story C, and ...
End story B, and ...
End story A.
  • There is no "official" limit to how many stories can be nested, but more than 3 or 4 may start to irritate your audience rather than holding their attention.
  • There is no "official" limit to the length of each story.  The important thing is to make each first part long enough to arouse the listener's interest (so they will want to hear the end of the story) and not so long that they lose that interest.
  • It's a good idea, though not absolutely essential, that each story is related to the information associated with it (some kind of metaphor is recommended).  In this way the information won't stand out from the story, and again it makes it less obvious that any "teaching" is going on.
  • It maybe goes without saying - make the process as seamless as possible.  So when you're ready to move from one story to the next you might use a sequence such as:
    "... and we decided to get going straight away (break off story A).  I've been told that having a good plan is just as important as knowing what your goals are (Information A).  Which reminds me of the time ... (start story B) ... etc.
In technical terms, a verb which has been turned into a noun, or the process of turning a verb into a noun.
In non-technical terms, something that only exists as long as it is happening.  For example, "to educate" becomes "education", "to respect" becomes "respect", and so on.
It is interesting development of the English language that in the UK at least, some people are beginning to de-nominalise their speech.  Thus instead of saying, "I love that painting" they would now say "I'm loving that painting".  This is not to say that the people necessarily understand what nominalisations are and wish to "clean up" their language.  Nevertheless, it can be very beneficial to make such changes to the way we talk because sooner of later (according to the basic meaning of the "neuro-linguistic" part of "neuro-linguistic programming", it will have an effect on the way we think.
The important point about the use of nominalisations is that the noun form doesn't actually have a clearcut meaning like the original verb form had.  Thus "to educate" implies a process where one or more teachers on one side of the interaction and one or more students on the other side who are in some respect learning as a result of the interaction, and most people asked to define "to educate" would probably come up with an equivalent (i.e. shared) meaning.  But if someone says: "I want my children to have a good education," the meaning is more dependent on personal interpretation, and a whole lot less clear.  What do they mean by "good"?  What do they mean by "an education"?  And what do they mean by "a good education"?
Politicians love nominalisations because they can talk and talk without having 'said' anything at all.  Staying with the word "education", we might think back to the Labour Party's slogan at the 1997 General Election: "Education, education, education!"  What on earth did it mean - if anything?  We were presumably meant to interpret this as a having very positive implications.  Yet the general impression (and bearing in mind comparisons with standards in other countries) is that the standard of "education" in state-run schools has actually been in decline throughout the time that the Labour Party were running the country (and since!).
Olfactory (O) 1
Taking in and/or processing information as smells.
Olfactory (O) 2
Someone using olfactory as their preferred thinking style in a given situation - a gardener appreciating his or her flowerbeds, a perfumier selecting a new scent, and so on.
In olfactory mode we might use phrases like:
"That smells fishy"
"His revelations really caused a stink"
"There's just a whiff of something not quite right in her book-keeping"
Outcome (well-formed)
In any activity, your chances of success are greatly improved if you start with a clear outcome.  A 'well-formed' outcome has the following properties:
  • It is stated in the positive
  • There are clear guidelines for determining when the outcome has been achieved - I will see this, hear that, etc.
  • The outcome can be achieved by the person setting the outcome without the need for significant aid from other people and with resources they already have, or can acquire.
  • Is of an achievable size (in some cases a large outcome may need to be broken down into a series of smaller outcomes).
  • Achieving the outcome will be 'ecological', that is to say, there are no identifiable negative side-effects.
Matching some part(s) of a person's behaviour in order to create/build rapport.  Pacing may then move on to leading, but not necessarily.
The way we think about things often suggests that we are made up of a number of 'parts':
"I think so, but part of me still isn't sure"
"I'm in two minds about that"
and so on.
The idea of dealing with problems by negotiating with your metaphorical 'parts' is derived from work done by Perls, Fritz and by Satir, Virginia.
Pattern Interrupt
Part of the "progamming" element of NLP is the idea that we often react to life in stereotyped ways rather than thinking through the specific situation we are in at a given moment in time.  Not a particularly original observation, you might say, and you'd be right.  What NLP adds to the mix is the idea of pattern interrupts.  Most other schools of psychology would recommend offering a person stuck in a particular pattern (of thinking or behaviour) an alternative pattern - "don't do that, do this."  NLP takes a slightly different approach, based largely on the work of Milton Erickson, which calls for an interruption of the person's inappropriate pattern so as to allow them to look for an alternative pattern.
A pattern interrupt can be a word or a phrase, such as "STOP - Now!", or some unexpected comment or behaviour which shocks the person into paying more attention to what is going on right here and now.
Our perceptions are our particular view of ourselves and the world.  Our perceptions are what make up our maps, and just as 'a map is not the territory it depicts, so our perceptions are a personalised snapshot of one part of reality, they are not reality itself.
Perceptual Positions
The three positions from which we usually view, or could view our interaction with others.  Most people spend most of their time in first position.  Yet we may be able to understand our interactions with other people more fully - especially if we encounter any problems - if we occasionally take a moment or two to view the transaction from 2nd and/or 3rd position.
See First Position, Second Position and Third Position.
Perls, Fritz
One of the leading developers of gestalt therapy (roughly equivalent in meaning to 'holistic' therapy).  His ideas found their way into NLP particularly in the areas of parts and reframing.
Phonological Ambiguity
The situation where a word is ambiguous because it has multiple possible meanings - such as "beat": tempo, hit, tired out, conquer, etc. - or because it sounds like other, quite different, words - such as:
  • "I", "eye" and "aye"
  • "Hear" and "here
  • "See" and "sea"
  • "Bow", "bough"
  • etc.
One of the elements in the Milton Model.
One of the five Satir categories.  The placater's response to a threat is to do whatever it takes to get the other person's approval - the "Yes man" approach.  Satir estimated that some 50% of an average group of people would be 'placaters'.
In NLP, the word predicate usually refers to "sensory predicates" - words and phrases which imply that a particular sensory system is in use.  Before NLP it was generally assumed that there was no significant distinction between phrases such as:
"It looks a bit odd to me"
"It sounds a bit strange to me"
"It feels a bit funny to me"
"It smells a bit fishy to me"
Bandler and Grinder observed that very often (but not always) the words shown in italics here (the predicates) have a literal meaning.  If someone says: "The looks odd" they may literally mean that they are mentally processing visual image(s) of some kind.  If they say: "That sounds strange" then they are probably mentally processing auditory information, and so on.
If you think you have detected which representational system a person is using it is a good idea to test it out by making some comment finishing with a predicate-based question such as: "Is that how it looks to you?", "Are you comfortable with that?", etc.  If your calibration is accurate you should get a matching predicate in the response.  Something like: "Yes, that is how I see it", or "No, it doesn't really feel right", for example.
Preferred Representational Systems
Because this has been one of the elements of the FoNLP that has received most attention from academic researchers I have created a FAQ on the subject - see FAQ #30 - Whatever Happened to Preferred Representational Systems.  Or for a brief description, see PRS #1 and PRS #2 below.
Presuppositions #1
A group of ideas which are taken to underlie various NLP techniques, etc.  For example, in NLP it is assumed that it will be more effective to help someone deal with problem behaviour by generating additional choices rather than by suppressing existing behaviour.  The presupposition here is usually expressed as, "People will always do the best they can with the resources available to them".
Presuppositions #2
In a more general sense, presuppositions are unspoken assumptions which are taken for granted by the wording of an overt comment.  For example, "Don't do that again" assumes that the person being spoken to has already done "that" at least once before.
Primary Representational System
Although the concept of Preferred Representational System (PRS) is sometimes referred to as "primary representational system" - usually by non-NLPers - this is an incorrect and misleading title since the word "primary" may be interpreted to mean that there is also a "secondary" representational system, a "tertiary" representational system, and so on (in fact these hypothetical entities have indeed (allegedly) been investigated by a small number of academic researchers).  In practice, however, in both valid versions of the PRS concept we are only interested in just one or two representational systems (if it is two they will have equal status).
Most of life consists of processes - that is, series of events and actions which have a beginning, middle and end (though these may sometimes be hard to define as they merge into previous, concurrent and subsequent processes).
The importance of identifying processes is that this helps us to understand what is going on around us.  For example, we often speak of "education" as though it were a 'thing' which happens or happened at a particular point in time (i.e. we turn it into a nominalisation) whereas it is, in reality, an ongoing (lifelong) process made up of millions of smaller processes.
PRS (Preferred Representational System) #1 - the DPRS
Of the two forms of Preferred Representational System, this one is the more "long term" version. I call it the DPRS (default PRS) because it is the representational system a person uses most often - as indicated by their use of sensory predicates - when tracked over a long period of time (months and years rather than minutes or hours).  Having said that, not everyone has a DPRS because this version only matters if one or two representational systems are used almost to the exclusion of the others.  When this occurs it often indicates a "stuck" state where a person finds it difficult to bring relevant rep. systems to bear in a particular situation.
This version of the PRS concept can indeed be identified by counting the number of times a person uses each kind of sensory predicate.  But if it is fairly obvious that one or two systems are being used more than the others - and assuming this is in the context of all relevant rep. systems being used in any situation - then this version of the concept may be of little interest.
If, however, there seems to be a clear DPRS this may indicate that the person needs to learn to use those less-used rep. systems more effectively and more frequently.
PRS (Preferred Representational System) #2 - the CPRS
This concept which relates to how we use our senses (representational systems) was originally presented in The Structure of Magic II (1976) when it was called "the most highly valued representational system".
I call this second version the CPRS, meaning the "current" or "contextual" representational system because it is indicated by the last sensory predicate a person used within a given situation.  That is to say, the indicator of a person's CPRS is also indicated by their use of sensory predicates.  In this case specifically by whichever predicate they used most recently - in the last few seconds or minutes.
In this case predicate counting is irrelevant and a person may shift between modesCPRSs in as little as 20-30 seconds or as long as a few minutes.  Under circumstances where someone is focused on some task that relates to a particular sensory mode their CPRS may remain static for even longer (if they are particularly focused on a certain picture or piece of music, for example).  
Punctuation Ambiguity
A sentence that is made up of two separate sentences which end and start with the same word (or a with two words which sound the same - phonetic ambiguity), as in: "It's a long time since I was [here/here] we go then", or "Do you know if you are over [weight/wait] until you try our diet".
An element of the Milton Model.
People will often accept a command if it is presented embedded within a quotation apparently from someone other than the speaker.  For example:
"The tutor on the Learning to Learn course told me that 'the best way to remember this stuff is to draw mind maps'.
So, you aren't directly tellling the person you're speaking to that they should draw mind maps, but by adding emphasis on the quotation you are in fact delivering an embedded command.
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Andy Bradbury can be contacted at: bradburyac@hotmail.com