Do you see what I see?
Over the years, there must have been countless times where I have witnessed people do something, or heard them say something, and genuinely wondered exactly what planet they were on. Since I started training in NLP I have realised that actually it is this planet, the very same one as me… only they clearly have a different map.
It was Alfred Korzybski, who is credited with the creation of the discipline known as ‘general semantics’, that said ‘the map is not the territory’. Put simply that means that the world looks different through the eyes of every human being because of the way they process the information they experience. In NLP, one of very first things we learn is ‘have respect for the other person’s model of the world’. Two people can be in the same room at the same time, seeing the same things, hearing the same sounds and conversations, but when you ask them to describe it afterwards you get two completely different descriptions. With filtering (distortion, deletion, and generalisation) the way we view something becomes very much our own experience. This is in play in everything we do and process, not least in conversation. This is one of those things that is glaringly obvious when you know about it, but until you become aware of it, how often do we give it any thought or consideration?
Since I completed my NLP Practitioner training, in my role as a Leadership & Performance Coach in a contact centre it’s this concept that has really helped me to help the leaders I work with improve their own coaching and communication skills. It is most apparent when a team leader voices their frustrations about why one of their team has not, cannot, or quite simply won’t do something and it’s affecting their performance, even though the team leader knows they could do it. Instead of jumping to how to ‘fix’ that team member like I would have done pre NLP training, I’m now far more likely to examine and explore everyone’s understanding of the situation first – what they were asked to do, how were they asked, what knowledge did they already have and other similar questions. That is followed by one of my favourites, along the lines of ‘did you ask them to confirm back to you exactly what they took from your conversation’ and ‘did you check, by asking them to tell you, they knew what they were supposed to be doing?’ After a puzzled look from them and an explanation from me, you can practically hear the penny drop. Alongside this, we usually go on to talk about why people do things the way they do. Something else that has been a really powerful learn is that a person will do something because it is the right thing for them to do at that exact point in time. It may not be the best or wisest choice they have made, but at the point they did it, it was right. The vast majority of people in the workplace wouldn’t set out to underperform, or make mistakes, or give wrong information or whatever else their error of judgement has been. They will behave according to their values, their situation, and the way their model of the world is currently shaped. Taking time to question and explore this is what will make the difference, whether that is addressing a performance issue, or any other topic where the person could do with help and guidance.
Of course, this isn’t only true in a workplace setting. In fact, I credit the retention of my sanity during the 2020 Covid19 Pandemic to this little nugget too. There were a lot of questions asked about the sanity and intelligence of people, and why they would not just follow the instructions given. Why are they too close to me? Why are they going out? Why are they travelling to a beach with a gazillion other people? It wasn’t right for many people of course, but at that moment in time for that individual making a decision on what to do it was right for them. Before you allow yourself to get annoyed, or frustrated by people, it really is worth stopping and taking a moment to think about that. That said, if the action is something illegal … I wouldn’t rely on my suggestion as a defence in court!
Ready to start your NLP career with PQ Performance?
PQ Performance was founded by Phil Quirk in 2019 after over 10 years of experience as a Human Performance Specialist working with Olympic & World Champion athletes, Polar Exploration Teams, RAF Fast Jet Pilots, UK & US Special Forces as well leaders of business from around the world.
Find out more about our range of NLP courses by clicking here.