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Do You Notice the Forest or the Tree?

Knowing how someone approaches a task and treats information can give you incredible clarity and insight into how they will be the most productive, along with how they will go about making a decision.

Many of us who have learned about meta-programs may recognize ourselves right away in the different distinctions. I hear a lot of people say: “Oh, I’m a big picture person!” and though this may be true in one circumstance it is important to remember that these patterns will change depending on the situation. As well, this meta-program distinction exists on a continuum, and we are often somewhere in between the two.

Specific vs. general

Specific: You deal better with information that comes in smaller chunk sizes, and it may be challenging for you to see the “bigger” picture. You will give others a lot of sequential information in the details and expect others to do the same in return, which may lead to frustration when they don’t. You do exceptionally well in a position where you handle the finer details of projects like handling logistics or planning events.

General: You see the bigger picture and can get a clear overview of how everything fits together. You think conceptually and are very good at summarizing things up in a couple of sentences or less presenting details in an often-random order. You are typically frustrated by people who give way to many details and explain these for a longer time than you feel is necessary.

With the more specific and detail oriented person, using words such as: “exactly” or “precisely”, and giving them lots of details in a sequence, will create deeper understanding and rapport. For people who tend to perceive the bigger picture, the appropriate language to use to create rapport is: “in general”, “the important thing here is…” and just giving them the overview of a plan or project (they often are also options oriented, see previous blog post). According to LAB (Language and Behavior) profile developer Roger Bailey, 15% of people will fall on the specific end, 25% will be equal and 60% of people will be bigger picture.

Knowing which chunk size someone prefers their information to be delivered in will bring you into much deeper rapport with them. Moreover, they will be much more motivated and productive in reaching a goal.

Much of this appears in the practical book: Coaching In The Workplace by Tim Hallbom and Nick LeForce.


  1. Hi Tim

    Just wondered if you had seen my book about Meta-Programmes – the English version is called ‘The NLP Brain-Builder’ (Piatkus), and the American edition (Tarcher) is called ‘Wired for Success’. The text is the same – idea is to make M-Ps
    more accessible to non-professional readers and to provide exercises that help people widen their range along the axes..

    My last year’s book, ‘How to Manage Your Mammoth’, (also Piatkus) takes a similar line with Chunking.

    Hope all well with you!

    Best regards

    • identicon

      Thank you for your note and kind wishes Wendy. Great titles, I will have to check them out.

  2. I probably fall more into the specific category but it can all depend on the situation. Interesting read, thanks Tim.

  3. Interesting article. Sometimes I meet people who are quite specific and I menejo more often and find it hard to understand because they want them to be “in my concept” more practical. With these items learn to talk to people from the way they are thinking and certainly helps.

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