NLP: Chipping The Old Block
NLP can help us understand, at least partially, the driving factors behind different people’s behaviour during these challenging times dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak? The whole world is gripped by uncertainty which in turn is driving behaviour. There are models within NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) which can help us make sense of these sometimes out-of-character behaviour.
Understanding how NLP can help
Perhaps the best way to understand is to use the famous metaphor of the 3 stonemasons?
Many centuries ago, the foundations were being laid for a grand and magnificent cathedral. The clerk of the works was a holy monk tasked with supervising the work of all labourers and artisans. One day, the holy clerk decided to carry out a study into the working practices of three stonemasons.
He approached the first stonemason and said, “My brother, tell me about your work here”.
The stonemason paused for a moment before replying in a resentful voice full of anger, “As you can see, I sit here in front of my block of stone. It measures 1 metre, by half a metre, by half a metre. With every blow of my chisel against the block I am chipping away a part of my life. My hands are callused and hard. My face is lined and my hair grey. This work is never-ending, the same day in, day out. It wears and grinds down my very soul. I will be dead long before the cathedral is even a quarter finished”.
The monk approached the second stonemason and said, “My brother, tell me about your work here”.
The second stonemason paused before replying in soft and even voice, “Brother, as you see I sit here in front of my block of stone. It measures 1 metre, by half a metre, by half a metre. With every stroke of my chisel against the block I sense that I am carving out a life and future. Look, how I am able to shelter my family in a comfortable house, far better than that in which I grew up. My children attend school, no doubt they will look forward to a life even more full than mine. All this is made possible by my work here. As I give to the cathedral through skill, the cathedral gives to me”.
The monk approached the third stonemason and said, “My brother, tell me about your work here”.
The third stonemason paused before replying in a voice full of joy and energy, “Brother, as you see I sit here in front of my block of stone. It measures 1 metre, by half a metre, by half a metre. With every caress of my chisel against the block I am shaping my destiny. Look, see how the beauty trapped within the form of the stone begins to emerge. Sitting here, I am celebrating not only my craft and the skills of my profession but am contributing to everything that I value and believe in, a universe – represented by the cathedral – where each gives the best for the benefit of all. Here at my block I am at peace with who I am, and I am grateful for that. Although I will never see the completion of this great cathedral, it will stand a thousand years from now, a beacon celebrating what is truly worthy in all of us, and a testament to the purpose for which the Almighty has put me on this earth”.
The monk went away and reflected upon his day. The following morning, he resigned his commission as Clerk of the Works and apprenticed himself to the third stonemason.
In these uncertain times it is interesting to see the actions of some people compared to the actions of others. Through NLP we can understand some simple premises:
- Everyone has a different model of the world, or simply a world view based upon our individual filters comprising of memories, language, values, beliefs & personality (meta programmes).
- Our filters interpret external events and provide us with a lens from which we experience and interpret reality.
- It is not what happens to us that shapes our reality in-so-much as our interpretation of the meaning of events that happen to us. Elegantly penned in Viktor Frankl’s seminal book, ‘Mans Search for Meaning’.
When you add fear and uncertainty to someone’s external events, we can start to observe a fairly broad spectrum of behaviour. Some people react with panic, some with clarity, some people fight and argue over basic shopping items like toilet roll, some share everything they have with strangers. The variation of reactions can be explained by understanding the filters from different groups. Although difficult to understand at times, all of this behaviour is fuelled, and when fear is the predominant fuel it can create sometimes difficult to understand actions. This phenomenon is not new and if we were to look through the events of history, we would notice predictable behaviour in humans under incredible stress and fear. The paradox is sometimes it brings out the very best in humanity and sometimes it brings out the very worst.
These uncertain times will pass and undoubtably a period of reflection will take place; with hindsight some will reflect with pride and others might question their actions during the crisis. The media is not always helpful by fuelling fear with inflammatory headlines and ‘juiced up’ superlatives describing the virus and it’s spread.
To quote the famous poem by Rudyard Kipling, “If you can keep your head while all around lose theirs.”
We can grow in this time.
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