One of the Basic Rules Taught in NLP: Define the Words Precisely

One of the Basic Rules Taught in NLP: Define the Words Precisely

One of the Basic Rules Taught in NLP: Define the Words Precisely

One of the basic rules taught in the Language section of every one of our NLP Coaching Trainings is: define your words precisely. It all starts with the basic NLP Presuppositions (don’t get confused between these and the Presuppositions in natural language, which I will discuss in a moment).  The NLP Presuppositions are basic beliefs about NLP and how it works.  One of these basic NLP beliefs is self-explanatory but little understood by most people in communication: The map is not the territory. In one of my previous articles (read it here) I talked indirectly about this NLP Presupposition when I discussed an experience VS the explanation in words of an experience.

Here is what I wrote:

“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 map is not the territory.

However that’s not all. Each word we use has a different interpretation for different people. And now we’re delving into the Presuppositions in natural language I mentioned earlier. Unless we define our words correctly when we communicate with other people we can talk about a subject all day long, but if we are not clear about what we mean when we use certain words, we’re hopelessly lost.

Try this experiment: take a common word used often (like ‘thinking’ or ‘communication’) and ask several people to tell you what they mean when they say any of these words. You’ll be surprised at the result. If you get really clear about what they meant ask them how specifically did they get to that answer. In NLP terminology, what you’ll be doing is called eliciting the complex equivalence

Let’s say they say that communication means posting on Twitter. So in their mind the word communication equals posting on Twitter. But maybe for you ‘communication’ means something completely different. Now you say to this person ‘let’s keep the line of communication active between us so we can resolve this burning issue in our business’, and they send you tweets. But you don’t do Twitter, so you never get their ‘communication’. And so both of you may end up frustrated about the lack of … ahem …‘communication’.

Then there is the redefinition of words that goes on right now in our societies around the world of to which I referred elsewhere. And you wonder why what we think may have no relationship to many of the facts going on in the world? Wonder not! Learn how to understand and define words correctly. You’ll be much happier and clearer in your head.


Until next time, be well.

Adriana James

About the Author: Adriana James

NLP Master Trainer, Hypnosis Master Trainer and NLPCoaching Master Trainer. She is the author of the book Values And the Evolution of Consciousness - a book about how to take advantage of the massive changes which the world is going through and  Time Line Therapy® Made Easy - an introduction to Time Line Therapy® techniques easy to master by everyone. To read more about Adriana go here.

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