You always have to keep in mind that a person may or may not produce the reaction that you were hoping for during a conversation. In addition to factors like beliefs, we must also take into consideration additional response factors like meta programs and personal values.
A meta program is essentially a pattern of behavior. In neuro linguistic programming, meta programs are used to identify existing patterns of behavior and these can also be used to change attitudes and behaviors whenever change is needed.
People have their own meta programs which they use whenever a situation calls for it. A person can have several meta programs and he can use one or two programs at a time if he deems those meta programs appropriate for the situation.
Of course, laymen won’t say that they have any fixed patterns of behavior. But to NLP practitioners, that is simply not true because if people didn’t have any fixed patterns of behavior, it is possible that people would be doing extremely random things on a daily basis.
To understand the concept of meta programs further, let us examine two common meta programs: introversion and extroversion.
An introvert individual has the following characteristics:
– He prefers to be on his lonesome when he feels weary and exhausted from work or any other activity.
– He does not want many friends. He prefers to stick to a few close friends ￼who truly understand what he is all about.
– He may feel very affected when an imagined or actual slight takes place. He may use the slight as proof that the other person is undesirable.
– He has very specific interests and shows mastery of these interests
– He prefers to be alone most of the time
An extrovert individual on the other hand, has a completely different set of characteristics:
– He wants to be around people so that he could feel relaxed and refreshed.
– He acquires lots of friends but does not have any deep connection with any of his friends.
– He may have experienced a slight but he would be willing to overlook the slight. A slight does not mean that his day is ruined.
– Has a broader range of interests but does not aim to have as much knowledge as an introvert.
– He is typically more gregarious.
It is important to remember that meta programs are there because people find them useful. One must not judge a person negatively just because he is more introverted and vice versa.
It is also important to note that an introverted individual may choose to act extroverted in the presence of his closest friends. Inversely, an extroverted individual may feel intimidated by new people and may choose to show his introverted side until he feels more comfortable around new company.
People can use and discard different meta programs throughout the course of the day because meta programs are simply patterns of behavior that help a person adjust to what he believes are pressing changes in his environment.
The second factor that influences how people react to situations and other people is values. Values are taught to us by society (including our family) and we also create our own values as we enter adulthood.
Values are learned and maintained because they give people a semblance of stability in a dynamic and often complex world. Values also help people focus on the things that matter to them the most. Many of our personal values help us.
Sometimes, traumatic events can lead us to create negative values that may have a severe impact in the way we conduct ourselves in real life. These negative values can actually impede a person’s personal and professional growth.
A close re-examination of personal values may be in order if a person thinks that there is something in his way of life that may be blocking him from gaining something really important in his life.
For example, a person who has been extremely devoted to the arts may find himself resistant to the idea of getting a regular job that provides a steady stream of cash. A re-evaluation of the person’s values may be necessary to understand why he doesn’t want to seek a job that would actually support his passion for the arts.
Now, when you are examining your own values or when you are helping another person examine his values in life, it is imperative that you differentiate the various areas of life before enumerating each area’s existing values. You have to be careful with the context of values because the rank/importance of values changes depending on what life area you are focusing on.
You can easily identify and modify values in each area of your life. Here is a modified exercise that will help you analyze if a value in a certain area of your life is impeding you from doing something that you really need to do or may be stopping you from reaching for something that you really want to happen:
1. Ask yourself: what area in my life needs help? What area in my life needs improvement? List down that general area on a piece of paper.
2. List down all the things that you consider important in this area of your life. If you chose work, you may list down things like “getting things done on time”, “being a good sport”, etc. List as many values as you’d like. Just make sure that the things you are listing are really important to you when it comes to this area of your life.
3. After making your list, I want you to re- read the list. Is something missing? If something is missing, feel free to add to the list. Take your time.
4. Rank the values that you have listed down from most important to least important.
5. Re-read the list once again and this time, try to determine if you are making a generalization, distortion or deletion. After categorizing the values that needed to be categorized, ask yourself if these values are stopping you from pursuing something that you want in your life.
Another factor that is worth examining is a person’s beliefs. Beliefs are especially important in the context of neuro-linguistic programming because beliefs directly influence how a person understands the various situations that he faces in his daily life.
If a person has a strong set of beliefs about something, he will do everything to defend those beliefs (if they are being attacked) and he will also make sure that all his actions will reflect all those core beliefs that he holds.
Before a piece of information can be accepted by the human mind as a belief, there has to be some form of validation. Validation can come from the people around you, from society itself or from self- validation through human experiences.
The next factor is attitude. An attitude is defined as “a position assumed for a specific purpose”. Another definition also fits the bill: “an attitude is a mental position with regard to a fact or state”. A person’s attitude is a determinant of his response to specific situations.
Attitudes arise from a concatenation of different factors like behaviors, beliefs, values, etc. Attitudes are also formed from your collective experiences with people and situations. You will be able to detect a person’s attitude toward a situation or object by examining how he speaks and how he acts.
You can help modify a person’s attitude by making direct statements regarding the object that the person is addressing with his attitude. For example, if you have a friend who has been whining for the longest time about the amount of money he is forwarding for taxes, you may want to remind him about countries where tax collection isn’t efficient.
If someone you know is constantly complaining about work at the office, remind that person that the unemployment rate is high and there are many ways to reduce the stress associated with work in the office.
The next factor is the memories that people have. Memories are created by the brain with just one purpose – for retrieval and use in a present or future time. Memories are created with various mental filters; your memory of one event is different from the memory of another person who witnessed the same event.
A person’s memories are used primarily to predict what would happen in a given situation.
For example, if a person has had a bad experience with cheap electric grills, he may anticipate that the electric grill at an outdoor barbecue would break down suddenly while in the middle of a picnic. That is the power of memories.
Again, your memories (like your beliefs and values) can help you move on with life or they can also serve as stop-brakes if the said memories have a lot of negative emotions attached to them. It is important to address negative and traumatic memories so you won’t end up creating limiting beliefs and limiting decisions.
And finally, we have decisions. Decisions are created with the help of values, beliefs and memories. Many of our decisions have helped us create a comfortable state for ourselves and our families. However, there ￼will be times when our own decisions will limit what we deem appropriate or achievable in our lives.
For example, a person who did not go to school may say “I’m an idiot, I didn’t go to school and therefore I would never amount to anything” or “I’m poor now, I was poor then and I will always be poor because my whole family is mired in poverty”.
These limiting decisions can definitely stop a person from pursuing newer avenues of growth and personal excellence. It should be noted there that many of the limiting beliefs ￼and limiting decisions that we have now were not formed consciously.
The conscious mind rarely creates beliefs that directly impede personal growth because it wants the self to develop and progress. The subconscious mind on the other hand, can sometimes create negative beliefs based on the emotions and thoughts that it is receiving.
The subconscious mind does not want to sabotage any person; but it can’t help creating limiting beliefs and limiting decisions if it is receiving a lot of negative affirmations and negative thoughts in the first place.