Can you remember attending a social function or meal with a group of people and there was that one person who could only notice everything that was wrong? The temperature of the food, the poor options on the menu, how slow the service was etc.
This person has filtered out anything that is positive, while you, as a positive person, would notice the variations on the menu and how polite and well trained the waiter is.
The NLP communication model shows us how important it is to start using the right filters to increase our own happiness and success as well as to more effectively communicate with others.
At a basic level communication can be summed up quite simply. Our minds take in and process information which then results in us responding or behaving in a certain way.
Most people are aware that we take information into our neurology (our mind) via our 5 senses; Visual (what we see), Auditory (what we hear), Kinaesthetic (what we feel), Olfactory (what we smell) and Gustatory (what we taste). What you may not be aware of however, is that our minds have some built in protective systems. The safety mechanism that is the focus of this article, is the filtering system.
In any second, every second, we are subjected to around 2 million bits of information via our sense receptors. As you can imagine, if we were to be subjected to this level of input we would be rendered non-functioning in very quick time. Scientific research has shown that the human sub-conscious is far superior at receiving and processing information than the conscious mind. In fact, the conscious mind is only capable of processing 7, plus or minus 2, bits of information at any given time.
The challenge for our minds is to reduce the vast amount of information we receive per second, down to a level that it can process, while still making some sense of our world. As you have probably guessed, this happens at a sub-conscious level.
The communication model shows us how our mind processes the information that comes into our system – how it deletes, distorts and generalises the sensory input to reduce it to a manageable size and then to make sense of it. The model also shows how our ‘State’ (the way we feel at any moment) and ‘Physiology’ (our physical being) are intrinsically linked via our Internal Representations (the sense we make of the input). In combination, these components drive our behaviour (what we do & how we act).
Deletions – Much of the information received is disregarded without further consideration. Right now, information is entering your system and being deleted because it’s not relevant to what you are doing. Do you feel your sock against your foot? Do you notice the pressure of your clothes against your skin? As this information has no bearing on what you are doing right now your mind discards it (unless of course you expand your awareness to notice these things; which you probably just did 😊)
Distortions – The mind tries to make sense of the input it receives and will attempt to make it fit pre-existing models of your reality. To create meaning, our sub-conscious twists and tweaks whatever it receives to fit, or ignores it. This is how we can recognise people we know even when they change clothes or cut their hair.
Generalisations – this process is where the information that comes in via our senses is recognised sub-consciously as being similar to something that’s occurred before and to process the information in a tiny fraction of a second it decides the fastest way to deal with it is to generalise that what is happening now, happened last time this type of info came in and so the mind generalises that the same response is required.
This process of Distortion, Deletion and Generalisation is based on the Values, Beliefs, Language and Meta Programs that we have formed throughout our lives. Having reduced the 2 million bits of information down to an amount that can be managed, this remaining information is then formed into meaning by our internal representations. We end up with our personal interpretation of our experiences. In other words, we create our subjective reality.
The version of reality that we create is influenced by our State, which can in turn affect our Physiology. Conversely, our Physiology can affect our State, which will alter our internal representations; hence change our reality. In combination, our internal representations, state and physiology impact on how we interpret the events in our lives and thus, our behaviour.
Given that all this happens in a fraction of a second, is it any wonder that sometimes we find ourselves in unresourceful or stuck states, unable to comprehend why we are unhappy not succeeding; or even in conflict with others who hold a different interpretation of the of the same sensory input?
Being able to alter our internal representations plays a significant role in altering our performance; in all facets of our lives.
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