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MindBridge NLP Coach Certification Training

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  1. 1 - Introduction to NLP and Professional Life Coaching
    8 Topics
  2. 2 - Fundamentals of Influential Communication
    5 Topics
  3. 3 - Characteristics of Excellence in Communication
    2 Topics
  4. 4 - a. Identifying Thinking Styles
    1 Topic
    1 Quiz
  5. 4 - b. Rapport
  6. 5 - a. Values Clarification
  7. 5 - b. Submodalities
  8. 6 - a. Anchoring Techniques
    2 Topics
  9. Managers as Coaches
  10. 7 - Clarifying Communication
    5 Topics
  11. 7 - a. Power of Questions
  12. 7 - b. Intake- Initial Pre-Coach Session
  13. 8 - Criteria
    3 Topics
  14. 8 - a. Perceptual Flexibility - Perceptual Position Quiz
    3 Topics
  15. 8 - b Well Formed Outcomes
    3 Topics
  16. 9 - 3 NLP Techniques Demonstrations
  17. 10 - Identifying Mind Maps
  18. 10- a. Meta Program Psychometric Quizzes
  19. 10 - b. Key Meta Program Patterns Explained
    7 Topics
  20. 10 - c. NLP Coach Session Demonstration
  21. 10 - d. Evaluation Forms -Outcome Coach Session
  22. 10 - e. Evaluation Video of NLP Coaching Demonstration
  23. 11 - NLP Coaching Sessions
    2 Topics
  24. 11 - a. Evaluation of Demo - Categories of Experience
  25. 11 - b. Directionalizing the Session
  26. 12 - Insights and Just for the fun of it!
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The ‘Hierarchy of Ideas’ is something you need to get your head round before you can really understand how NLP language patterns work. Luckily it’s easy to understand.

The concept has to do with how abstract or specific your language is, which of course indicates where on the spectrum between overall ‘big picture’ and fine-grained detail your mind is focusing. This is also known in NLP as ‘chunking’, because our minds seem to process information in a small number of ‘chunks’, and people vary as to how detailed or big-picture the amount of information held in each ‘chunk’ is.

It’s also sometimes known as ‘levels of abstraction’, because the higher up the Hierarchy of Ideas you go, the more abstract the concepts you are dealing with. This will become clear in a moment when we look at an example.

Being aware of the Hierarchy of Ideas is important, because the more flexibly you can move up and down the levels of abstraction, the more successful you will tend to be in both personal and professional relationships, and the more skilled you will be at dealing with people who are stuck at one end or the other of the detail/big picture spectrum.

From time to time, you may have had to deal with someone who is a real nitpicker. If you ask this person to do something, they need you to tell them exactly how to do it, down to the finest detail; or maybe they go and do it, and then they come back and tell you the entire story, step by step, of how they did it. If you ask this person how their weekend was, they’ll tell you in excruciating detail and chronological order each thing they did. And if you interrupt them, they may feel they have to start the whole narrative again from the beginning!

Alternatively, you may also have worked with someone who only thinks in big-picture terms, and is bored by details. They only want to know the overview, or what’s important, and they will do their best to avoid practicalities. They’ll give you vague instructions, and if you ask them about how you want them to do what they’re asking, it’s a real struggle to get them to come down to some kind of practical level.

Much of people’s miscommunication is a result of individuals communicating at different levels of abstraction. Some people think in terms of the “big picture” or very abstract ideas and thoughts while others prefer to think in “concrete terms” and pay attention to details and specifics.

Levels of Abstraction

Being able to recognize the level of abstraction where others are talking and being able to match or pace that level of abstraction will result in improved communication. After reaching agreement on that level of abstraction, mutual outcomes can then be achieved by leading the conversation laterally, to the more concrete or by staying at the present level.

Communication may continue to move quickly from the abstract to the concrete or from the concrete to the abstract. However, recognizing and utilizing the level of abstraction on which the conversation is taking place will greatly improve communication.  

One way to use the levels of abstraction is to move to the more abstract to obtain agreement among parties and then gradually move down to more specifics once agreement has been reached. Some people actually will not require that more concrete details be provided because they are comfortable with the ambiguity. Other people will require great detail. Therefore, reach agreement on the larger abstract idea and then provide only the details required. In NLP we change levels of abstraction by chunking up, chunking down or chunking laterally.

You may have heard that language can be, at one extreme, vague and general and at the other, very specific. Language is the best way we have to communicate, but it is often extremely limited. By understanding the limitations of language you can get a great deal more from it than by remaining in ignorance.

Between the general and the vague, and the detailed and specific, there are a number of gradations expressing things more less generally or specifically.

Another important distinction in coaching questions is whether the question takes the learner’s attention ‘upwards’, towards the big picture, similarities, and the abstract level, or ‘downwards’ to details, differences, and concrete facts.

The distinction is important because of the different kinds of information the two types of questions will get you, and because of the effect on the learner’s way of thinking, their attitude, and even their emotional state.

Given that the human mind can only handle a few chunks of information at any given moment, it makes a difference what level of abstraction these ‘chunks’ are at. At a ‘big chunk’ level, each ‘chunk’ will contain a lot of information but in a summarized, abstracted way.

In order to get to the details of any of the information contained in that chunk, you would have to ‘chunk down’ to a smaller chunk size, where each ‘chunk’ contains more detailed and concrete information about one part of the bigger chunk.

Conversely, if you are considering something at a ‘small chunk’ detailed level, and you want to know how that information fits in to the bigger picture, or what is important about it, you would need to ‘chunk up’ to a higher level.

Here’s another thing to consider. Higher levels of abstraction are more powerful than lower levels of detail, and give you more leverage, because the higher level includes the lower levels. If you have a motivating value that’s important to you such as ‘achievement’, for example, the many different things you could do to fulfill that value are at a lower, more specific, more concrete level. But they’re all included within that abstraction of ‘achievement’.

That gives you an almost infinite number of choices for how to achieve that value. If one way is denied you, or it has downsides that make it not worth going for, you have choices about other ways to achieve that value. But someone bogged down at the more concrete level may be stuck with just one way of achieving the value. If that way is denied them, they won’t easily be able to change what they are doing to find another way of fulfilling the value. So if circumstances change, as they do a lot these days, they won’t have the adaptability to succeed.

Being able to handle higher levels of abstraction, then, gives you more leverage and more flexibility. 

In today’s environment where we have to deal with increasing amounts of complex, uncertain, ambiguous information, the ability to chunk up to higher levels of abstraction is increasingly valuable. Other things being equal, and as long as you also have what we can call emotional intelligence or people skills, that ability will get you promoted faster and more highly rewarded.

In inter-personal communication the person who controls the level of abstraction within the communication controls the communication itself. The hierarchy of ideas is a model which assists us in our ability to move through and between different levels of abstraction from vague and ambiguous to concrete and specific.

The hierarchy of ideas also utilizes the concept of chunks of information and our ability to take such a chunk and ‘chunk up’ to a higher level of abstraction, ‘chunk down’ to a lower level of abstraction and even ‘chunk sideways’ or laterally between two chunks at the same level of abstraction.

Chunking Down

If we take the word car as an example, the word car is at a particular level of abstraction. If we then chunk down on car we move to a lower level of abstraction – something more concrete and specific. We can chunk down and gain specificity by asking ‘What are examples of this?’, or ‘What specifically?’ So if the subject of the communication was car we might ask ‘What type of car specifically?’ and chunk down to Ford.

If we required further detail we could chunk down one more level by asking something like ‘What model of Ford specifically?’ and we might get a response of ‘Mondeo’ or ‘Focus’. In this particular example we’ve chunked down on the class or category of the subject in question.

With each increasing level of specificity we are moving down through the hierarchy of ideas, down through levels of abstraction. We can gain specificity in inter-personal communication by chunking down to uncover increasingly fine levels of detail by asking the questions ‘What are examples of this?’ or ‘What specifically?’

Chunking Up

Detail and specificity are useful under certain particular circumstances and for certain applications. At the other end of the spectrum there are circumstances and applications that are better served by taking an overall or ‘Big Picture’ view.

When we’ve been ‘down in the detail’ and we want to move up to take look at the ‘Big Picture’ or, if you like, take a ‘bird’s eye view’ of things we chunk up. Questions that we can ask to assist us in chunking up include:- What is this an example of? For what purpose? What is your intention?

If we return to our previous example of car and chunk up one level by asking the question ‘What is this an example of?’ we may chunk up to motor vehicle. Chunk up again to a machine and chunking up again we may arrive at transportation and eventually to movement or even existence. Each time we chunk up one level we move to a higher level of abstraction and I’m pretty sure you would agree that existence is a far more abstract concept than car.

Chunking Laterally

Chunking laterally you can significantly enhance your cognitive abilities and communication skills by developing your abilities to utilize chunking more effectively. If you prefer plain speaking, another way to say it is that being able to chunk better will help you to think better and communicate better.

So far we’ve looked at chunking down to fine detail and chunking up to the big picture. You will benefit from being able to chunk up and down skillfully and you will benefit even more from being able to chunk laterally or sideways.

How do we chunk sideways? Simple – first chunk up one level, then chunk down someplace else. For example, if we take the word Painting and chunk up one level we could chunk up to Art. If we then ask ourselves ‘What are other examples of art?’ we could chunk down to sculpture, music, dance or any number of art forms.

By using this process of chunking up then back down we’ve effectively chunked sideways – in this particular context we chunked from up from painting to art, and then sideways and down again to sculpture, music, dance etc.

When we chunk sideways we begin by chunking up by one hierarchical level and end by chunking back down to the same hierarchical level we started from. Thus the chunk(s) we end with are on the same level as the chunk we started with.

Communication tends to flow better and be more useful when all of the people involved are using similar sized chunks from the same hierarchical level. This is also one of the reasons why the person controlling the level of abstraction also controls the communication.

When you become skilled at chunking up, down and sideways one of the things you will notice is an exponential increase in your communication skills. Another thing that you’ll notice is your increasing ability to think circles around the people you communicate with.

In Summary:

Chunk is a computer term that means to break things into bits — bits of information. In NLP ‘chunk size’ is a reference to how an individual’s experience is perceived, ordered, and stored.

The NLP Communication Model introduces the concept of information being divided into chunks of variable size and the idea that the conscious mind can usefully attend to 7+/-2 (seven plus or minus two) chunks of information at any one point in time.

We all operate with varying ‘chunk sizes’.  Sometimes you will want to match a person’s chunk size and, at other times, you will want to mismatch or change it. Chunking allows for shifting perspective and that opens up more choices.


To chunk up is to move to a more general statement (generalization) that is inclusive of the original statement/perspective and broadens it to create a larger category and possibly a higher logical level.

  • Moves from a specific term to the general category
  • Moves from a part to a whole
  • Create global experience


To chunk down is to move to a more specific statement that includes information implicit in the original statement and directs the listener to finer distinctions and differences.

  • Moves from specific to more specific 
  • From a whole to a part
  • Focus on detail

Lateral Chunking

To chunk laterally is to move to a contextual shift to other examples at the same logical level, an isomorphism or metaphor. For example, fast and slow are extremes along the continuum of speed. 

Chunking is useful for: 

  • Motivating others
  • Discovering new options
  • Finding the intention behind a request
  • Generating movement in stuck situations
  • Chunking up can eventually lead to outcomes and criteria


  1. Chunking can open up a whole new perspective which can lead to better outcomes and well defined criteria. Fascinating how the process of chunking up, down or lateral clarifies communications both for the listener and the client, develops rapport with a client.

    Chunking Down moves a client from specific to more specific, from whole to a part and is focused on the details. Eliciting clarification by asking “What Specifically?” “What are examples of this?”

    Chunking Up – broadens the original perception and moves the client from specific term to general category, moves from a part to a whole and creates a global experience for the client. Questions to ask: “What is this an example of?” “For what purpose?” “What is your intention?”

    Chunking Laterally client moves to a more contextual experience a shift by using isomorphism or metaphors. Chunking laterally is useful for motivating others, discovery of new options, Finding out intentions, generating movement in a stuck situation, chunking up can lead to outcomes and criteria. Chunking up and chunking down is chunking sideways / lateral chunking.