Our Middle Name Is “Linguistics” As In Neuro-Linguistic Programming Part 1
Imagine this: you are trying to communicate to someone something of real importance to you. You’re going somewhere with your talk, only to be interrupted before you could even get to half of what you wanted to say and you hear the magic words: “I know what you mean! I understand.”
How many times have you experienced this scenario before? And how frustrating it is? You’re left hanging in the air with an incomplete communication and a feeling of slight confusion and a little upset: “Wait a minute”, you think, “You did not even hear what I wanted to say” but it is already too late. The person you’re talking to thinks they already know… and they have taken over the conversation which soon goes somewhere else so there is no more room for you to say anything. At the end you’re left with more of a feeling of incompleteness …
So here are some important questions:
- Can we study human communication through language without having to take years of courses at the university?
- Can we actually understand what is the specific effect of our words on other people just after three brief weeks of study?
- Can we understand what others really mean when they use the words they use when they talk to us?
- Can we figure out in a short amount of time the relationship between words (no, I am not talking about school grammar folks), and the changes occurring in people’s minds as a result of hearing these words?
- Can we recognize the redefinition of words that occurs right as we speak? Which means the meaning of the words as we used to know them is changing right now.
- Can we say that language represents the sum total of the labels we use to describe our experiences?
Well, Let’s See…
Most people think they know the answers to all of the questions above. Boy, are they wrong! All they’re doing is guessing what you mean when you talk to them and usually their guessing job is a very poor one. They say “I know what you mean!” but they really don’t.
There is a major difference between guessing, and really understanding. The truth is that most of the time they don’t understand. They make it up. They imagine they do. Occasionally it can happen that some people do a better guessing job than others, but most of the time they don’t have a clue what you mean. They think they know but all they have is their personal mind read or presumption of your words.
Actually one student told us after the language section in the NLP Coaching Practitioner training that for the first time in his life he could hear what his employees were really telling him! And another student told us that after she went home she realized what her partner was trying for years to tell her– and what a difference that made in her relationship.
Now consider this scenario: one person from Mars comes to earth and meets you. This person has never experienced an orange. And you are now in the position to explain to him/her/it what is an orange. But here is the catch: you cannot show them an actual orange, not even a picture of an orange and you cannot have them drink a glass of orange juice. All you have is words to give this person from Mars an equivalent of an experience of an orange. Remember, this person has never seen, smelled, touched or tasted an orange. How easy do you think it will be for you to do this job?
Not easy. We use language and words to attach labels on experiences exactly as the grocery chain attaches labels on oranges. It is easy when you see the orange and read the label. But it is very difficult when you don’t have the orange and all you have is the label. Then you have to hallucinate the orange and depending on the explanation of the label you may end up imagining a weather balloon, a basketball, or the planet Mars itself.
So the answer to the questions at the beginning of this article is of course yes!
We can actually understand what is the specific effect of our words on other people and what others really mean when they use the words they use when they talk to us.
We can figure out in a short amount of time the relationship between words and the changes occurring in people’s minds as a result of these words. And yes to all of the rest.
But Only If You Put In A Little Effort…
If you learn the basics of the meaning of words (in NLP called Complex Equivalence), and if you learn how to recognize the basic assumptions in natural language (called Presuppositions in Natural Language) without guess work the answer is yes. There are other similar things to discover like the Meta Model and the Milton Model… but once you become familiar with these, you can really understand and evaluate correctly what is it that you’re hearing or reading and what’s happening to your mind in that process.
You will never watch TV news the same way. You will never read that magazine the same way. You will be able to see things that were there all along, in front of you, but you could not observe before. You will hear your boss, co-workers, family members in a whole new way and be able to clear up many miscommunications that created problems in the past. Usually, when this happens is like a mind opener.
Yes folks, this is what language does to us. It creates wonderful understandings and enlightening moments or it can wreck communication regardless of the good intentions behind it.
One you get these skills, you can begin to figure things out much better if you also recognize what words do to your own mind. Yes, you use words to think. You attach words to your self-talk. Now, does your “inner chatter” enhance your ability to creatively find solutions to problems or does it keep you stuck, limited and hopeless?
Did you actually know that words used in a certain order and sequence modify your thinking?
We will see how this works in Part 2 of this article.
Until then, be well