Let's say you found someone that demonstrates a great skill and you'd like to adopt that skill for yourself. How should you go about it? I suggest you use NLP modeling to do it.
In this article, we'll focus specifically on the first part of the modeling process, which we call the unconscious uptake. For a full overview of the process, refer to NLP Modeling: The Ultimate Guide.
Unconscious uptake and intuition-building
Once you have selected an exemplar (the person who exemplifies the skill you want to acquire), the first step is to absorb their patterns of excellence. The NLP methodology teaches you to do this by stepping into them or acting "as if" you were them. The purpose of this exercise is precisely to begin building intuitions, or direct knowledge, about the skill this outstanding performer exemplifies.
When you engage in unconscious uptake, you aren't scanning for any specific patterns. Rather, you simply take on the behavior of your exemplar congruently, meaning you behave as if you were them, allowing your neurology to identify and match them as much as you can. If you have access to the person, do not overlook any micro behaviors such as tiny muscle movements, facial expressions or other subtle manifestations. Sometimes, these tiny expressions can give you access to the deep intuitions that give rise to them.
CAUTION: Do not attempt do this without setting up protective unconscious filters. Unconscious uptake is a full contact sport. You can harm yourself if you skip this most important step. That's why it's the very first thing my students learn during onboarding in the Modeling Experience.
During this phase of modeling, don't attempt to understand or figure out what the exemplar is doing. Don't try to make sense of the behavior from your point of view. Remember: the exemplar is probably an outstanding performer because they have a completely different model of the world from yours.
Have you ever done something you regretted and then said: "I don't understand why I did that!" Consider using the exact same perspective when modeling. You don't understand why they do it the way they do it, and you shouldn't try to do so from your model of the world. If you do, you'll remain in what I call the "commentator's box".
Let me illustrate this in a different way...
In televised professional sports, you have two perspectives of the game. The first is the players'. The second is the commentator's. Players who are on the field have a direct experience of the game and they PLAY it. Commentators, on the other hand, have a broad view of the game and they talk ABOUT it.
It's a completely different perspective, aimed at a completely different goal.
They analyze the players' actions from a spectator's viewpoint. For that reason, they would NEVER be able to make the decisions the players make, because their model of the world does not include the heuristics required to play the game.
The same applies to you when modeling. You are trying to get down on the field and assume the player's position. Stay clear of the commentator's box by abstaining from analyzing or judging from your perspective. You have no idea what's important or what's irrelevant in their model.
That's why it's ideal for you to approach this phase from a state of "not knowing". We also call this state the "Nerk Nerk state" in NLP.
The state of "not knowing"
When you enter a state of "not knowing", your goal is to suspend your pre-conceptions and assumptions so you can get a clean perspective on the experience at hand. You don't want to assume anything about the person and their experience so you can avoid distorting it in your information-gathering.
Robert Dilts shares the following story to illustrate the unique perspective of the modeler on the state of "not knowing".
An NLP Practitioner, Master Practitioner and a Modeler went on a walk for the first time in the redwood forest in Santa Cruz.
On the path in front of them they saw a yellow banana slug. “Oh look,” said the Practitioner ‘The slugs in Santa Cruz are
The Master Practitioner replied, “Not necessarily. Some slugs in Santa Cruz are yellow.” The Modeler retorted, “Well, there is at least one path in Santa Cruz, with at least one slug on it which is yellow — at least on one side.”
That state is incredibly useful because, as you suspend your preconceptions, you can begin asking yourself all kinds of questions that you would otherwise overlook or pass over. What would happen if you didn't take anything for granted? A good example of this was Milton Erickson, who went so far as to wonder whether his clients' eyes were both original (one could be glass), or whether his clients' hair were real or a wig.
As modelers, we use the state of "not knowing" to enhance our awareness, unleash our creativity and stimulate our ability to draw closer to the exemplar without succumbing to the limitations of our model of the world.
Keep in mind that every major breakthrough in almost any field is usually achieved by outsiders. Why? Because insiders are held back by what they take for granted and breakthroughs result from asking "stupid" questions.
The Nerk-Nerk frame
Todd Epstein introduced the term "Nerk Nerk" to NLP in reference to the state of "not knowing". It's the name of a fictional alien creature who shares human beings' nervous system and physical characteristics, but lacks all of their perceptual filters and cultural assumptions.
Nerk Nerk understands all languages, but he's not able to accomodate ambiguity in the way humans do. In order for Nerk Nerk to understand and respond, you have to offer him purely sensory-based descriptions and instructions.
For example, if you told Nerk Nerk to imagine a dog, he wouldn't be able to do it. Whereas you and I would instantly fill the ambiguity with a presupposition (we'd see a poodle or a German shepherd or a collie), Nerk Nerk would require those races to be explicitly specified, along with races and sizes (among other details) to be able to imagine precisely the animal we want him to have in mind.
The Nerk Nerk frame is useful from two perspectives. First, as a modeler, so you suspend your presuppositions during the unconscious uptake phase. Second, when you are transferring a model to a trainee, in which case you pretend that (s)he is Nerk Nerk, and you have to describe or explain something so he can understand it. This frame challenges you to increase precision in your communication and ground your descriptions in sensory-based language.
The power of not knowing
I hope you appreciate the uniqueness of this approach to knowledge acquisition.
This, at its core, distinguishes NLP from every other learning system out there. Modeling behavior is not a practice exclusive to Neurolinguistic Programming. However, this unique phase of unconscious uptake is.
As you approach the development of any new skill in your life, seek first to build intuitions, or direct knowledge, before you seek to understand.
The dailyNLP Modeling Experience aims at guiding you through this visceral experience in a lab-controlled environment so you can begin applying this method to every skill you want to learn.