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Filtering Out Reality?

We all know what it’s like when we try to communicate a message across to someone and it’s misunderstood. In NLP it has been suggested that there exists a set of learning filters which we use to communicate to one another and so the response we get can depend on how we use these filters. I have outlined more about these filters below:

Sensory Perception: The first stage of how we interpret our reality of any given situation is through our senses. I have written about this in another blog post called Sensory Acuity. To summarise; the three main senses we use to take in information are Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic. One of these senses will be more dominant, so for some of us our sense of hearing will be more important than our sense of sight so that the tone and pitch of words used will be more important than how we see the person or what pictures we might make in our mind.

The next stage is the internal process we go through of filtering this sensory information. This filtering system is our way of deleting, distorting and generalising this information.

Deletion: This occurs when we selectively pay attention to certain aspects of information and delete or overlook others. This is an essential way for us to manage the huge amount of sensory information that is available to us at any one time. So for instance sitting in a busy, loud restaurant for example we can selectively delete some of the external noise that is going on around us so we can focus on the conversation we are having. Or when we drive a car we will focus on the things that are important to us and choose to ignore other things that we deem unimportant. However even in very simple scenarios, such as catching up with a friend or talking to a work colleague, we will still make deletions.

Distortion: This is when changes in the way we experience sensory information causes us to make misinterpretations of reality. A simple example would be if we think we have come across a snake lying in our path only to discover it is just a stick. One of the benefits of distortion is it’s role in helping motivate us into action through positive distortion and it also plays an important part in helping us use our imagination.

Generalisation: Familiar to most people this is the way we draw a conclusion that is based on one or more similar experiences we have had and take the view that it is applicable on a global scale. It’s actually an efficient means of  learning. For example we all know how to use a door. Each one operates in a very similar way, yet rarely do we come across the exact same door. To ensure we don’t have to re-learn how to use a door each time we come across one we have learnt to generalise and commit to memory the basic functions of how to use a door.

At it’s worst generalisation is the way we take a single event and turn it into a lifetime experience i.e most phobias arise as a result of a one time learning.

Information overload!

In addition to the above is the understanding that, no matter how we interpret information, the amount of information available to us via our senses at any give moment is vast. With this knowledge it is understandable that we couldn’t possibly be consciously aware of every piece of information and so it has been determined that we are only able to process between five and nine pieces of information at any one time, depending on how much distraction, stress and other variables are present. If you need evidence for this simply sit down in a quiet space and start to notice three things you can see in your field of vision, then whilst doing this bring your attention to the sensation in three different parts of your body, before then being aware of two or three sounds you can hear. You will soon start to notice how your attention will leave certain points as you bring new pieces of information into your awareness.

In addition to this filtering process we also hold a range of diverse beliefs and values, ingrained both at an individual and cultural level. Taking this into account you can see how easy it is for miscommunication to take place on both levels.

So next time you make a decision about something whether it be a life changing one or simply deciding what to have for lunch…..spare a thought for how you might have got there!

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