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NLP modeling is a method or strategy of learning that occurs as a function of observing, retaining and replicating patterns of language and behavior observed in others. It is most often associated with the work of Richard Bandler and linguist John Grinder who implemented some of the seminal studies in the area and initiated Neuro-linguistic programming.
This theory holds that masters of a skill often fail to take into account the implicit processes involved in carrying out complex skills when they are teaching novices. To combat these tendencies, NLP modeling projects are designed to unconsciously assimilate the tacit processes. In order for modeling to be successful, the learner works on minimizing preconceptions with access to the master (although modeling from books, historical records of people's words, or video is not unknown), and engages in unconscious micro-muscle modeling so as to accurately reproduce the desired skill.
A "modeling project" involves spending time studying and observing in depth, discussing, and imitating and practicing many different aspects of the subject's thoughts, feelings, beliefs and behaviors (ie, acting ""as if" the modeler is the expert) until the modeler can replicate these with some consistency and precision. Once this has been achieved, the modeler then refines the target skills by removing certain features to eventually discover the essential features distinguishing average performance and top performance, thus building a learnable/transferable model, and tests it by seeing if it can be taught. The aim of NLP modeling is to discover the elements of what the expert is doing that the expert is not aware of. 
|“||When modeling another person the modeler suspends his or her own beliefs and adopts the structure of the physiology, language, strategies, and beliefs of the person being modeled. After the modeler is capable of behaviorally reproducing the patterns (of behavior, communication, and behavioral outcomes) of the one being modeled, a process occurs in which the modeler modifies and readopts his or her own belief system while also integrating the beliefs of the one who was modeled. Because they are extraordinarily skilled at this way of learning, Bandler and Grinder were able to ferret out the essential patterns used by Milton Erickson, Virginia Satir, Fritz Perls, and others, to codify these patterns in a succinct, understandable way, and to transfer the skills to others who are interested in learning them.||”|
The NLP theory behind modeling does not state that anyone can be Einstein. Rather it says that know-how can be separated from the person, documented and transferred experientially, and that the ability to perform the skills can be transferred subject to the modelers own limits, which can change, and improves with practice.
Detail and examples
Typically a "modeling project" might cover the following sources of behavior:
- Internal strategies
- Sensory perceptions and submodalities
- Physiology (body movement and body language)
- Language patterns
- Fall-back strategies ("what if it isn't working")
- Conscious and unconscious communications
- World view
- Locus of consciousness (ie where ones attention is)
Each of these is individually a deep and rich field; there is no point where one knows everything, but as a process of replication, the goal is met when the modeler has enough parts of the puzzle to piece together and document how the subject seems to be doing his competent skills.
Many trainers stress that fully identifying with the model ("embodied" modeling) is an essential part of the modeling process. However, when NLP practitioners do any modeling at all in practice, it is often Analytic Modeling.
Ideally, the result is that the modeler feels that the information of "how the skill is done" is sufficient, and the rest is practice or external limitation rather than understanding of the process.
Other uses include:
- Modeling how a therapeutic client maintains and engages in their "problem behavior", with the intent of learning enough to change it for the better
- Modeling famous or dead people to gain a sense of how they did what they did, and their views and beliefs which allowed them to do so. (Robert Dilts is a proponent of this process, having described models of notable people such as Jesus of Nazareth, Sherlock Holmes, Albert Einstein and Nikola Tesla)
- Robert Dilts and John Grinder argue for a distinction between Analytic Modeling and "NLP modeling" that requires unconscious uptake via imitation. (announced October 17 2005-)
- (Bander & Grinder 1975, 1976; Grinder & Bostic St Clair 2001).
- Jacobson, S. (1994) "Neuro-Linguistic Programming" INFO-LINE, American Society For Training and Development, . Adapted from 
- Einspruch, Eric L., Forman, Bruce D. (1985): "Observations Concerning Research Literature on Neuro-Linguistic Programming." Journal of Counseling Psychology. October, Vol. 32(4) pp. 589-596.
- Description of modeling, its methods and uses
- Modeling in human resources - 1997 paper
- Glossary of NLP topics
- Modeling in organizations
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