Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Seeing things differently

During our sessions, or perhaps in books or other blogs you have read you may have heard  about the NLP (neuro linguistic programming) presuppositions and wondered what the heck they are!  Or perhaps you've heard or read phrases and wondered where they've come from or what they actually mean.

Underpinning the basis of all NLP work are deeply embedded core assumptions called the NLP presuppositions.  Now, that's a bit of a technical jargon so to put simply, they are a set of assumptions or beliefs about how people operate that create the basis on which NLP works and how change can happen. If you like, they are a way to look at things, ways can be useful in making changes to or understanding the way you and others respond to situations, relationships and life in general.

These core assumptions are:
  • The map is not the territory
  • There is no failure, only feedback
  • The meaning of the communication is the response you get
  • If what you are doing doesn't work, try something different
  • In any system the element with the most flexibility exerts the most influence
  • You cannot fail to communicate
  • Individuals have all the resources they need to achieve their desired outcomes
  • People work perfectly to accomplish what they're currently accomplishing
  • Every behaviour has a positive intent
  • Every behaviour is useful in some context
  • The mind and the body are connected and influence each other
  • Modelling successful performance leads to excellence
  • Having a choice is better than not having a choice
  • People make the best choice they can at any moment in time
  • People respond to their experience not the reality itself

Clearly as an NLP practitioner all the work that I do is based on these underlying beliefs and and perhaps as you read the list you may have agreed with some of them but raised an eyebrow or two at others!   Remember these are just beliefs, useful ways to look at things and I wonder in how many and in what ways your life would change if you made the choice to believe them.

Over the coming weeks I will explore each one of these beliefs, and you might like to see how they fit into your world, and how your view of the world could change as you begin to understand these and apply them!

So, the map is not the territory.  Huh?  What does that mean?  

Each and every one of us has our own map of the world - its what makes two people go to a party and have an entirely different experience, how siblings can grow up within a family and have two different tales of family life, how two people can see the same thing in a completely different way.

HSBC bank ran a series of adverts, often seen in airport corridors, that demonstrate this beautifully

How do you understand and interpret these images?  Perhaps in a different way?  All our maps are different and unique, they are the way we see and interpret the world, yet they are not the world.

How many different maps are there of the UK?  Yet which one actually depicts exactly what the land is?  None of them.   Each one is just a representation of what the reality is - some maps will concentrate on roads, others on topography, some may be in colour, pictorial, or a model.  But not one will be the territory itself.

So when you start to think about your own map of the world, how is it different to say the way your partner, your family, friends, colleagues see the world?  There will be a lot of similarities but there will also be differences.  And it is these differences that create the misunderstandings and conflicts.    And, just by understanding that our maps all differ, we can begin to appreciate and be aware of our differences, accepting them, and finding ways to seek understanding and resolution where there is conflict.

Next time you're frustrated that someone doesn't get what you're saying or doing, or you don't understand them, just take a moment to appreciate they're simply working from a different map.  You don't have to understand their map, nor they yours, just having the understanding and acceptance that the maps are different goes a long way to making the first steps to positive change and resolving conflict within a relationship.



  1. Great post! I LOVE the concept that the map is not the territory. I think it took a few minutes to 'get' it the first time I was introduced to the idea.

    And I love the HSBC ads. Their advertising people are fantastic. I love the way they got people to think differently about the same images.

  2. Thank you! The map is not the territory is such a great way to begin understanding differences and conflicts. I've also used it a lot in my training with dementia carers as the map of the person with dementia changes sometimes beyond recognition. Once the carer understands this concept it really helps with accepting and reducing the frustrations they may be feeling.

    I love the HSBC adverts too! Glad to have found a way of incorporating them into my blog!