As you’ll know from this blog, I love the NLP communication model. It’s like having an instruction manual for people. It explains how we work, how we learn and how we process our experience and give it meaning.
In this blog I’m going to summarise some of the useful things we can learn from the model that help us with relationships and so also with teamwork.
Here's a reminder of the model.
When you consider the processor and the impact it has on how we think and how we behave...
There’s no way that the content in my processor at this moment in time can be the same as yours or anyone else’s. Even if you were my twin, we’d still have had different experiences that would have influenced what we have learnt and what’s in our processors.
You may be like me, and some of your processing may be similar to mine, but it can’t be exactly the same.
As a result...
I can’t assume that, given the same information as me, you will get the same output as me / come to the same conclusions as me. In fact, it’s probably safer to assume you won’t, and just stay curious about what conclusions you have come to and how you got there.
Given the output from our processing is likely to be different, I can’t assume you will behave like I would either.
AND, given that the way we process things can be impacted by our energy levels, even if I think I know how you’re likely to react to something, there's a good chance you might not react in the way I expect you to.
Summary of what we can learn from that?
We’re all unique
We look at and process things differently
I can’t assume you'll think the same as me
I can't assume you'll come to the same conclusion or agree with me
I can't assume you will behave like I would
I can't assume you’ll behave as I expect you to
Moment to moment, we’re always doing what we think is right or best, we’re making what we think are the best choices available to us.
We’re always doing the best we can, given the resources available to us at the time
We might think differently once we get to evaluate the results/feedback, but in the moment, we’re going with what seems best. Sometimes we may have to choose between a rock and a hard place, but we still make what we think is the best choice.
This is a great one for banishing regret and for forgiving yourself (and others).
Hindsight is a marvellous thing, but we don’t have that in the moment. We only have our interpretation of events, based on the information we have and what’s in our processor right now (including how we are feeling, our energy levels, how we think our day is going etc).
Once we get some feedback, we might decide that a different choice would have been better and we may commit to doing things differently in the future. We may decide to change our processing to get a different result next time.
For example, I might say something to you trying to help in some way, but you get upset. I’m sure we’ve all had that happen at least once in our lives.
My intentions were good. I thought I was doing and saying the right thing and it’s only when I see that you’re upset that I wish I’d made a different choice or delivered my message differently. If we talk it through, I can learn how to avoid upsetting you in the same way in the future, but at the time my communication didn’t work out as I had hoped.
This leads me to another helfpul learning:
The meaning of communication is the response you get
It doesn’t matter what I thought I said. If you took it badly or misunderstood, that’s the situation I must now deal with.
If I want to get my point across in the way I intended, I must take responsibility for the way I communicate and try delivering it in a different way.
It works in a similar way the other way round. If you say something that upsets me, I need to pause and think about how I’ve processed what you said. Have I understood you in the way that you intended? I might need to check...
It can be difficult to forgive people for what they have done (which is why I like to avoid reading too much news as you generally only hear about the worst of humanity there). But I have to accept that however weird and hideous and twisted some people’s behaviour might seem to me, their actions were the right choice for them, given their life experiences, what they’ve learnt from them and what was going on for them in the moment. Somehow in their world it was the best choice for them at the time, even if in my world it’s so very wrong.
So here's another learning
I think I'm right and so does everyone else.
People don’t generally like being told they’re wrong
As we’re all coming to conclusions and making choices as best we can, we will all be doing what we think is right. If someone then tells us that we’re wrong, we’re likely to be one or more of
So rather than reacting like that or telling people they are wrong, my recommendation is to
Focus on staying curious
How is it that we both think differently and come to different conclusions?
What information did you use to get to your opinion?
How did you process it compared to me?
Now let’s think about it from a different angle.
All we ever see when interacting with someone else is their behaviour. What they say and do.
All the processing they’ve done and the bits of information they’ve used to get to their choice is invisible to us.
But often we make assumptions about that.
We mind-read, and the only thing we can use to mind-read is our own minds.
We’ll add meaning to their behaviour based on our own perspective/processing.
"They're missing the point"
"They were obviously just trying to upset me"
"They’re just out to prove that they’re better than everyone else"
"They don’t care about this as much as I do"
"They think I think it’s their fault"
..and so on.
We’re judging their output based on what we think their processing is and we could be way off!
So, we have to recognise that mindreading doesn’t exist.
We have to question our assumptions
How else might they be interpreting the information?
What else could be going on for them that would explain their behaviour?
What good intention might they have been trying to fulfil?
And if we want to know what leads someone to their choice or conclusion we need to stay curious and find out.
We could even ask!
How did they make that decision?
What was their intention?
What information was their decision based on?
Think about what questions you might ask to avoid assuming the worst about them.
And the final one for this blog…
You can’t force someone to change their mind and accept your way of thinking…you can only influence them.
And you can only influence them based on something that’s important to them, and not you.
They’ve come to their conclusions for some very individual reasons. They’ll only change their mind if they can see that your counter arguments make sense from their perspective.
So there are some of the key learnings from the NLP communication model that help me (and my clients) understand, accept (even if I don’t agree), and get along better with other people.
Particularly those that are different from me and therefore seem a bit weird!