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3. First iteration: Modelling from observation

On the first day of the Northern School workshop Robert interviewed Martin for three 40-minute sessions, and in between answered questions from the audience. Overnight he constructed a model called 'Healing from the Heart' and summarised it in powerpoint slides which he presentated to the group. Below we reproduce one of his slides (the complete model can be seen in the Appendix, Section 9).

A Slide from Robert Dilts' model: 'Healing from the Heart'

A Slide from Robert Dilts' model: 'Healing from the Heart'

Having presented his model, Robert facilitated a member of the audience to acquire it; that is 'take on' how Martin heals from the heart.


Acquiring is not about understanding a model; it is about being able to do it so that you get similar results to the exemplar.

If you want to acquire Robert's way of modelling you can 'take on' what he is doing and saying as you go through this report. For example, in the first video clip you can imagine being Robert interviewing Martin – sitting and moving your body the way he does, and saying what he is says.

Clip 01 - "Inviting, holding, exploring"
Robert was not given a brief of what to model from Martin's peace and reconciliation work. During the first interview they explored what to focus on. Video Clip 01 is taken towards the end of the second interview. It starts when Martin says "It’s inviting the connection, and it’s holding the connection, and it’s exploring the connection." (See Appendix, Section 7 for a transcript of this clip.) We chose this clip because Robert later said he immediately knew this was significant and, as you can see from the slide above it became central to his final model.

Observations on Clip 01
Below are our initial observations and inferences. We have distinguished our inferences by putting them in [square brackets].

Robert often writes while Martin is speaking. From Robert’s notes we later saw that he was recording some of Martin’s exact words. He said they were the ones he considered were labels or cues for significant parts of Martin’s process.

In this five-minute video clip Robert does the majority of the speaking. Embedded within his comments are four questions; three of them of the form, 'How do you...?':

How do you 'open your heart'?
How do you 'let go'?
This notion of 'just being' - so how do you do that?

The fourth question is quite different:

My guess is that you have to prepare yourself in a certain way to connect. In fact to reach out, or to invite means that you kind of have to be – in some language you might say, ‘not in your own ego’. It seems to me it’s a special place to be. You’re not trying to impose your map of the world on other people. You’re not trying to be right. You’re not trying to go, 'I’ve got to be safe'. It seems to me there's some quality that you have inside that allows you to do that. What would you say to that?

Robert often repeats Martin’s exact words. He also uses Martin’s words as part of his own description. Much of what Robert says is in the form of meta-comments. These can be:
  • From his own perspective, e.g. “That seems to me to be very interesting ...”
  • Inferring about Martin’s process, e.g. “It seems like in a certain way everything else is all dependent on your capacity to open your heart.
  • To explain what he is doing [apparently to prepare Martin for what’s to come] e.g “I’ll be asking you a lot of ‘how’ questions.”
  • Describing NLP or modelling e.g. “It’s a really fundamental difference that makes the difference”.
One of the effects of Roberts commenting is that it gives Martin time to think: “As you’re talking I’m thinking: What am I doing when I’m actually doing that?”

A number of times Robert starts a sentence, stops and starts another one. Also, he regularly says or asks something and then says it again in several different ways (for example see the quote above which starts "My guess is that ...").

While Robert is speaking his body often seems to be actively involved. Particularly noticeable are his gestures. He often repeats Martin’s words while pointing to and gesturing around his own body. For instance Robert asks: “How do you open your heart?” while gesturing to his own heart area.

As modellers it’s intriguing to consider: Given Robert is an expert, what is the function of his repeating, describing and commenting? We guess Robert is giving himself time to embody and take on Martin’s description, and to decide what question to ask next. What happens in the interior of Robert's mind-body becomes clearer during our interview with him.

Observed patterns
From observing Robert modelling and explaining his process we identified a number of patterns. His approach can be summarised as:
  • Multi-outcome orientated — his own, the exemplar’s, and the imagined acquirers’
  • Multi-sensory (Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic)
  • Multi-level — from “details of how” to “deepest drivers” of life purpose
  • Multiple perspectives — we counted at least seven
  • Multiple time frames — from exemplar’s history, to the interview in the present, to future acquisition
  • Lots of repetition/backtracking — of words, metaphors, concepts, etc.
  • High use of metaphor and analogy
  • Overt and consistent demonstrating on the outside of what’s happening on the inside
  • Describing things in groups of three.
Robert acknowledged that to do the above requires “multi-tasking”. We think to be able to access multiple outcomes, levels and perspectives simultaneously (or to switch between them fast enough as to appear simultaneous), requires the ability to have 'split attention'. This is vividly illustrated in the next section when Robert describes how he associates into an inner movie he has created and dissociates to watch the movie and ask himself questions about it, while continuing to interview the exemplar.

  • Comment #1 (Posted by Luca)

    Can I find somewhere the Dilts' notes you mention?
    Thanks, Luca
  • Comment #2 (Posted by James Lawley)

    Good question Luca. The short answer is 'no'. Currently my copy of Robert's notes is in storage. One of these days I aim to retrieve them and add them to page 8 of the article, but I wouldn't hold you breath waiting!

    Thanks for your interest in our work, and I'd be interested to know what you got from this article.
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