Want to Communicate More Effectively? Recognize Patterns and Make New Distinctions

The metaprogram-sorting principles we’ve dealt with so far are important and powerful; however, the crucial thing to remember is that the number of metaprograms you’re aware of is limited only by your sensitivity, awareness and imagination. (See previous posts in this series here.)

One of the keys to success in anything is the ability to make new distinctions. Metaprograms give you the tools to make crucial distinctions in deciding how to deal with people. You are not limited to the metaprograms discussed here. Become a student of possibility. Constantly gauge and calibrate the people around you. Take note of specific patterns they have for perceiving the world and begin to analyze if others have similar patterns. Through this approach you can develop a whole set of distinctions about people that can empower you in knowing how to communicate effectively with all types of people.

For example, some people sort primarily by feelings and others sort by logical thoughts. Would you try to persuade them in the same way? Of course not. Some people make decisions based only on specific facts and figures. First they have to know if the parts will work – they’ll think about the broader picture later. Others are convinced first by an overall concept or idea. They react to global chunks. They want to see the big picture first. If they like it, then they’ll think about the details.

Some people are turned on by beginnings. They’re most excited when they get a new idea off the ground, and then they soon tend to lose interest in it and go on to something else. Others are fixated on completion. Anything they do they have to see all the way to the end, whether it’s reading a book or doing a task at work.

Some people sort by food. That’s right, by food. Almost anything they do or consider doing is evaluated in terms of food. Ask them how to get someplace, and they’ll say, “Go down the road until you get to Burger King, make a left, and then continue down until you get to McDonald’s and make a right, and then make a left at Kentucky Fried Chicken until you get down to that chocolate-brown building.”

Ask about a movie they went to, and they immediately begin telling you about how bad the concession stand was. Ask about the wedding, and they’ll tell you about the cake. A person who sorts primarily by people will talk mostly about the people at the wedding or the people in the film. A person who sorts primarily by activities will talk about what actually happened at the wedding, what happened in the film, and so on.

The other thing an undertaking of metaprograms provides is a model for balance. We all follow one strategy or another for using metaprograms. For some metaprograms we may lean slightly more to one side than another. For others we may swing wildly to one strategy instead the other. But there’s nothing carved in stone about any of those strategies. Just as you can make the decision to put yourself in an empowering state, you can choose to adopt metaprograms that help rather than hinder you.

What a metaprogram does is tell your brain what to delete. So if you’re moving toward, for example, you’re deleting the things you’re moving away from. If you’re moving away from, then you’re deleting the things that could be moving toward. To change your metaprograms, all you have to do is become aware of the things you normally delete and begin to focus your attention on them.

Don’t make the mistake of confusing yourself with your behaviors or doing the same thing with someone else. You say, “I know Joe. He does this, this, and this.” Well, you don’t know Joe. You know him through his behaviors. But he isn’t his behaviors any more than you are yours. If you’re someone who tends to move away from everything, maybe that’s your pattern of behavior. If you don’t like it, you can change. In fact, there’s no excuse for you not to change. You have the power now. The only question is whether you have enough reasons to make yourself use what you know.

There are two ways to change metaprograms. One is by Significant Emotional Events – “SEEs.” If you saw your parents constantly moving away from things and not being able to achieve their full potential as a result, it might influence the way you move toward or away. If you only sorted by necessity and missed out on some great job opportunity because the company was looking to someone with a dynamic sense of possibility, you might be shocked into changing your approach. If you tend to move toward everything and get taken in by a flashy-looking investment scam, it would probably affect the way you look at the next proposal that comes your way.

The other way you can change is by consciously deciding to do so. Most of us never give a thought to which metaprograms we use. The first step toward change is recognition. The awareness of exactly what we are currently doing provides the opportunity for new choices and thus for change.

Let’s say you realize that you have a strong tendency to move away from things. How do you feel about it? Sure, there are things you want to move away from. If you put your hand on a hot iron, you would want to move it away as soon as you could. But aren’t there things you really want to move toward? Isn’t a part of being in control making a conscious effort to make a move toward something? Don’t most great leaders and great successes move toward things rather than away? So you might want to begin to stretch a little. You can start thinking about things that appeal to you and actively move toward them.

You could also think of metaprograms on a higher level. Do nations have metaprograms? Well, they have behaviors, don’t they? So they have metaprograms, too. Their collective behavior many times forms a pattern, based upon metaprograms of their leaders. The United States for the most part has a culture that seems to move toward. Does a country like Iran have an internal or external frame of reference?

Metaprograms can be useful on two levels. The first is as a tool to calibrate and guide our communication with others. Just as a person’s physiology will tell you countless stories about him, his metaprograms will speak eloquently about what motivates him and frightens him off. The second is as a tool for personal change. Remember, you are not your behaviors. If you tend to run any kind of pattern that works against you, all you have to do is change it. Metaprograms offer one of the most useful tools for personal calibration and change. And they provide keys to some of the most useful communication tools available.


  1. Great article Tony. I actually laughed out loud when I read – “Some people sort by food. That’s right, by food. “

    Christian Spoerl on March 5th 2013
  2. I have been a longtime follower of your work. I read this in the morning,and found it to Beverly insightful. Thanks Tony.

    Jaliya on March 4th 2013
  3. this is quite profound.

    shelton vengesai on February 27th 2013

Leave a Comment