Chapter 14: Distinctions of Excellence: Metaprograms

Metaprograms give you the tools to make crucial distinctions in deciding how to deal with people.

To talk to people and be understood, we need to use the right key. Metaprograms are the keys to the method by which someone processes information. People cannot pay attention to everything. They delete, generalize, and distort information. Metaprograms provide the structure that determines what we pay attention to. If we understand this, we can effectively communicate.

The first metaprogram—moving toward or away. Our behavior is based on the urge to gain pleasure or avoid pain. Some people are excited about what might happen, others are more cautious and choose familiar actions. Some people, when speaking about what they expect from a relationship or work, say what they want, others say what they do not want. That is why depending on the group you are speaking with, you need to use a different key to convince them. For example, when you talk to a teenager you can say, “When you study well, you can choose which college you want to attend,” or, “If you do not study well, you won’t get into your dream college.”

The second metaprogram—external and internal frames of reference. Some people need suggestions from outside, for others the most important thing is what is in their mind. For example, for some people to know that they did a good job, they need praise from their boss. Others just feel that they did well, and that inner feeling is all they need. You can convince someone by saying that many people think something similar or saying, “You’re the only one who knows that it is the best way.”

The third metaprogram—sorting by self or by others. Some people are concerned mostly with themselves, others think more about the welfare of the group, team, etc.

The fourth metaprogram—matchers and mismatchers. Some people look at things that they have in common, while others create differences. On one hand, we prefer to build rapport with matchers, but mismatchers are also valuable. In the business world, their critical and analytical observations are very helpful.

The fifth metaprogram—possibility or necessity. Some people do something because they must, while others look for possibilities and excitement.

The sixth metaprogram—the person’s working style: independent or cooperative. Some people have problems working with others, and others feel the best when they are a part of a group.

We can master communication skills by using several metaprograms together.

Metaprograms can be used on two levels. First, to communicate with others. Secondly, to change and develop ourselves. We can change our metaprograms through Significant Emotional Events or we can consciously decide to do so. We should remember that we are not our behaviors. Metaprograms give us the possibility of personal change.