Generally speaking, generalisations are everywhere. Learn this and begin to spot generalisations in NLP.

Generalisations are one of the fundamental pieces of the Meta-model. With already took a deep dive into distortions which you can find here and also the question, what is the Meta-model and you can find that here too.

Generalisations generally occur whenever a person generalises specific information. So much of the Meta-model helps us navigate what we do daily. The Metamodel and the three fundamental pieces are a way for us to get to the heart of the real issue or understand what is the person is aiming to communicate.

It’s very easy to spot generalisations. You’ll often hear in people’s language statements like all CEOs are stressed and I always get ill in December, and to spot that generalisation or to make sense of it, simply add generally speaking to the end of it, and if it fits then ” generally speaking” it’s a generalisation.

Generalisations are broken down into two quantifiable sections. Universal quantifiers and modal operators.

Universal Quantifiers

A universal quantifier is a generalisation that doesn’t allow any exceptions. It’s a way that we state something to be true and then apply that to everything else.

Begin to recognise universal quantifiers by listening out for words such as “always, all, every, never, everyone, no one, nobody, none.”


  • “It always rains at the weekend”
  • “Everybody loves pizza”
  • “Nobody loves me”

Generalisation Challenges

  • “It always rains at the weekend?”
  • Everybody loves pizza?”
  • Nobody loves you?”

In order to challenge a generalisation, you simply repeat what was said and emphasise the generalisation as a question!

Modal Operators

Modal operators are the other form of generalisation. the technicalities of a modal operator are it’s a type of adverb that precedes a verb and that then indicates that a person is acting out of necessity or possibility.

So in simple terms, it’s something that we have to do, could do or want to do.

Modal operators are usually linked to motivation and direction of motivation.

Things that people, want to do, should, do, can do, must do etc. There is so much implied by modal operators. Listen out.

Whenever you hear modal operators in play, you can begin to question a person’s motivation or intention around that statement. What was it they really wanted to say and what was implied? you can gather more information when you hear a modal operator by asking “what would happen if? what would happen if you didn’t? what stops you?” type questions.

As above, in some cases. Simply repeating the statement but using an upward inflexion questioning tonality can allow a person to revisit the statement and add in more possibility or even certainty.

Examples of necessity Modal Operators

  • “I should go out more”
  • “I have to go to sleep early because I need to travel tomorrow”
  • “We need to have a conservatory built this summer”

Modal Operator Challenges

  • Should go out more?” Upward inflexion on should Or “Should You”?
  • “Is there anything that’s stoppings you?”
  • “What would happen if we don’t?”

Modal Operators of Possibility

Possibility statements are things like Cannes, cannot, will, will not, would, may not, it is possible, it is impossible.

Let’s have a look at some examples of modal operators of possibility and see how they structure and what the possible challenges could be.


  • “I can’t see myself talking on stage”
  • “It might not be possible for me to change my job”
  • “I think my fitness is to a level that I can teach classes”

Modal Operator Challenges

  • “What stops you seeing yourself talking on stage? what would that look, sound and feel like to you?”
  • “What’s stopping you?”
  • “What would teaching fitness classes do for you?”

So now it’s time to practice practice and practice some more. Set your reticular activating system to begin to notice these linguistic violations to allow you to become a master of understanding what’s really going on.

These examples are from works in Bandler and Grinder Structure of Magic 1, 1975