Article Categories
[ Show ] All [ Hide ]
Clean Language
Article Selections
[ Show ] All [ Hide ]

How to do a Modelling Project - Section 5

Stage 2: Gathering information from your exemplars

Types and reliability of information

It is important to distinguish between different types of information gathered from the exemplar. The following five are in descending order of reliability of information:

i. Observed behaviour with sufficient repetitions to indicate a pattern

ii. Observed behaviour with insufficient repetitions to indicate a pattern

iii. First-person descriptions or role-play by the exemplar of what they do

iv. Explanation by the exemplar (i.e. the exemplar's conscious model of what they do)

v. Second-hand descriptions*

* Sometimes, the experiences of those who interact with the exemplar are valuable, e.g. Cricket Kemp and Caitlin Walker modelled teachers who were especially adept at working in multi-cultural classrooms. Some of the key pieces of their final model came from interviewing the pupils.

Ways to gather information

The general rule is, the closer (and more often) you get to observe the exemplar achieving the results the better. Sources of information can be:

  • 'Live' observation of exemplar achieving their results (by 3rd position observation and/or 2nd position shadowing)
  • Video/audio tapes, or material written by the exemplar that demonstrates achieving the required results
  • Face-to-face interview
  • Role-plays and mini-scenarios
  • Questionnaires
  • Written information edited or co-written by someone else
  • Description by someone else, e.g. biography.

While gathering information it is preferable that your questions are asked from within the frames and logic of the exemplar's experience.

Fundamental or universal ways humans make sense of the world

'Experience' is a unified whole. Yet tobe conscious of our map ofthe world we categorise, evaluate, compare, decide, reason, intuit,etc. These processes require us to delete, distort and generalise(Bandler & Grinder). The most common way to do this is touse one domain - usually our everyday experience of the physicalworld - to make sense of another domain, usually the non-physicalworld. In other words, we use metaphor (Lakoff & Johnson). Themost commonly used metaphors, which appear to form the basis of alllanguages, are:


Relative location.


Sequence of events defined by a before, aduring, and anafter.

Schematic of a Sequence of Events

Figure 2: Schematicof a Sequence of Events


The attributes or qualities by which something isperceived, and at the same time, distinguished from otherthings, i.e. how it is known. The content of ourperceptions.


The someone who is perceiving the something. To do thisthe perceiver needs a 'means of perceiving' (seeing,hearing, feeling and other ways of sensing) and a 'point ofperception' (where the perception is perceived from). Theperceiver is therefore always in a certain relationship withthe form of the perceived within agiven context (time andspace).

Figure 3: Perceiver-Perceived-Relationship-Context (PPRC Model)

[Note: This model isour synthesisof David Grove's "Observer-Observed-Relationship between" and John McWhirter's "FROM-TO-IN" models.]

Levels are a means of ordering and categorising experience in a hierarchy. They are therefore usually referred to as 'Levels of' something e.g. Learning, Organization, Abstraction, Explanation, etc.

A Modeller's Perspective

One vital aspect of modelling rarely made explicit is the perspective adopted by the modeller when modelling an exemplar for an ability or pattern of behaviour. There are a surprisingly large number of modeller perspectives to choose from. Below we describe six (for more explanation of these see: A Modeller's Perspective, 2014):

Category Modelling Methodology
Expert Modeller
Modeller's Perspective
Original NLP Modelling
Generative Trance
John Grinder

Steve Gilligan
Unconscious uptake/assimilation

Deep trance identification
Analytic Modelling

Experiential Array

Sub-modality Modelling
Robert Dilts

Gordon & Dawes

Richard Bandler
Take on

Step in and try on

Teach me to be you
Symbolic Modelling
Lawley & Tompkins
Facilitating self-modelling

Modeller's Perspective
Role of Exemplar
What is primarily

Where/how modeller
creates their model

Unconscious uptake/assimilation
No active part
External behaviour in a typical context
Unconsciously in the body and mind of the modeller
Deep trance identification
No active part
Identity (become the exemplar)
Unconsciously as if they are in the body and mind of the exemplar
Take on
Describes his or her experience and verifies modeller's model
Internal process and external behaviour during interview
Consciously in the mind and body of the modeller
Step in and try on
Describes his or her experience and verifies modeller's model
Internal behaviours, criteria and beliefs
Between modeller and exemplar – the modeller then steps into the model, tries it on and steps out
Teach me to be you
Explains to modeller how to do what they do
Internal process and sub-modalities
Consciously in the mind of the modeller
Facilitating self-modelling
Self-models, i.e. they create and describe a metaphor landscape in and around them self.
Organisation of verbal and nonverbal metaphors
In and around the exemplar maintaining the exemplar's perspective

Modelling Questions

Every question directs the exemplar's attention to some where,when or what in their mindbody map. So it is vital to consider:

  • What kind of information do I want to gather?
  • Where does the exemplar's attention need to go to access that information?
  • How simply (cleanly) can I ask for that information?
  • Did I get the kind of information I was going for?

High-quality modelling questions tend to:

  • Relate to the project outcome
  • Make minimal presuppositions about the content of the exemplar's map
  • Be short and contain a minimal number of non-exemplar words
  • Be simple and ask for one class of experience at a time
  • Invite the exemplar to remain in the appropriate state to demonstrate what they do, i.e. in their 'perceptual present'
  • Not ask the exemplar's attention to jump too far (in space or time)
  • Not get 'no' or disagreement for an answer.
  • Start from what the exemplar consciously knows, move towards the boundary of what is already known, before stretching that boundary into areas of the yet-to-be-aware-of (i.e. tacit knowledge).
The following are examples of some commonly used modelling questions:

Identifying How do you know …?
Where do you ...? 
When do you ...? 
Under what circumstances do you ... / does ... happen?
For what purpose do you ...?
How do you normally go about ...?
How specifically do you do …?
What's the first thing you do …?
Then what do you do?
What do you do next? 
What do you need to do to …?
How do you know you are (achieving) …?
How do you know you have (achieved) …?
What let's you know to ...? 
What do you see, hear and/or feel that lets you know …?
What's important to you about …?
What makes it possible for you to …?
What does … lead to or make possible?
What do you do if it doesn't go well / doesn't work?
How do you know to stop trying to (achieve) …?
Under what circumstances would you not ...?

Clean Language

In addition to the above, David Grove’s Clean Language is ideal for modelling because it …

  • Makes maximum use of an exemplar’s terminology.
  • Conforms to the logic and presuppositions of an exemplar’s constructs.
  • Only introduces ‘universal’ metaphors of form, space and time.
  • Only use nonverbals congruent with an exemplar’s nonverbals. 

Basic Clean Language modelling questions

[  ] = Exemplar's exact words

Identify And how do you know [  ]?
And that's [  ] like what?
Develop Form
And what kind of [  ] is that [  ]?
And is there anything else about [  ]?
And where/whereabouts is [  ]?
Relate over Time
And what happens just before [event]?
And then what happens? or And what happens next?
Relate across Space
And when/as [X], what happens to [Y]?

Specialised Clean Language modelling questions
(also called Contextually Clean questions) are used only when the logic of a client’s metaphor permits:

Identify And what determines whether [X] or [Y]?
And what needs to happen for [event]? 
And is there anything else that needs to happen for [event]?
Develop Form
And what happening [location/event]? 
And does [an 'it'] have a size or a shape? 
And how many [group] are there? 
And in which direction is/does [movement]?
And where is [perceiver] [perceiving word] that from?
Relate over
Time/across Space
And where does [  ] come from? 
And is [X] the same or different as/to [Y]? 
And is there a relationship between [X] and [Y]? 
And what's between [X] and [Y]?
And what happens between [event X] and [event Y]?

 »  Home  »  NLP  »  Advanced NLP  »  How to do a Modelling Project
 »  Home  »  Modelling  »  How to Model  »  How to do a Modelling Project
Article Options

The only book
dedicated to
David Grove's
Clean Space

Insights in Space

James Lawley
& Marian Way

view all featured events