Strategies And The TOTE Model: Practical NLP Podcast 45

Practical NLP Podcast 45 strategies TOTEThis week we start to get to grips with ‘Strategies’ – our internal ‘programs’ for doing what we do, both problems and the things we’re good at – and the TOTE Model, the standard model used in NLP to make sense of them.


00:48 – A neat exercise for ‘warming up’ a skeptical audience
03:57 – The definition of a ‘strategy’ in NLP
04:34 – Why syntax is important
04:47 – Gratuitous ‘Itchy and Scratchy’ reference
04:59 – How strategies are like recipes
06:11 – Why elicit strategies?
07:59 – Introducing the TOTE Model
12:30 – Strategy elements – the ‘steps’ within a strategy
14:22 – The role played by submodalities in strategies
15:03 – How to start analysing your own strategies

The TOTE Model – Test, Operate, Test, Exit

TOTE Model

The first Test is the one that sets the whole process off. It’s a comparison of the current state with the desired state. The first Test essentially asks “Have we achieved our goal yet?”, and the specifics of what the goal is and the criteria going into that comparison vary depending on which strategy it is.

The Operate stage is one or more steps that could be gathering information from the outside world, performing some action, remembering something, making comparisons, or creating internal representations.

The second Test is a comparison to answer the question “Have we achieved our goal yet?” using the same criteria that were established by the first Test.

If the answer is “Yes”, then we Exit the strategy. If the answer is “No”, we loop round and repeat the Operate stage again.

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Duration: 17m31s

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Practical NLP Podcast Collection Vol 7Note: Only the most recent 10 episodes of the Practical NLP Podcast are available free on Apple Podcasts. You can still listen to this episode as part of the Practical NLP Podcast Collection Volume 7, which you can get here.

© 2014 – 2019, Andy Smith. All rights reserved.


  1. Hany

    I really enjoy listening to your podcast and trying your suggestions out. Just a note on the diagram..It is a simple test operate then loop-back to test again; just from a process flow diagram; unless the first and last tests are not identical.

  2. Andy Smith

    Thanks for pointing this out Hany,

    You do sometimes see the TOTE model diagram represented in NLP books as just one test with a loop-back. Actually I do believe that the first test may sometimes not be identical – for example when a sequence of behaviour is initiated by a conditioned ‘trigger’ but then has the possibility of being repeated depending on the results of the second test. I’m not sure this is ‘canon’ in NLP terms though – I would need to discuss it with other NLP trainers to be sure.

  3. Dr Chirag Dalal

    Thanks for nice, very informative podcast.
    Can u plz tell, where shall i get transcriptions of the podcast,?
    There is a language problem, so i would be better for people like us, who can read what we listen from you simultaneously for better understanding.
    If not, kindly make transcriptions available?
    thanks a lot. you are doing great job, that nobody does…..

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