Why do I sometimes see situations so differently, to others?

What belief system am I choosing from, is this serving or limiting me?

Where do I hold back – when I should be moving ahead?

Here, red10 ‘s Sureya Naidoo seeks to explain one of the 16 pre-suppositions at the heart of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) model called, ‘The map is not the territory’. This is the idea that the way we see the world – isn’t reality itself. In other words, we don’t respond to reality, we respond to our internalized map of reality. Accordingly, the ‘map’ refers to the ‘internal representation’ of the World as we see it from inside, while ‘territory’ refers to the reality of the World outside.

What is the point of a map?

Intrinsically, we have each undergone subjective, diverse, and different experiences in our lives, which shape us distinctly and consequently this becomes our ‘map’ of the world.

Because the human mind is filtering 2 million BPS of information at any given time,  whilst only able to consciously integrate 134 BPS, we simplify or reduce this information, to make it more manageable to process. Thus, the ‘map’ is by necessity, a reduction or simplification of information arising from past experiences which have occurred, which we store as references, and shape our ‘internal representation.’ What we overlook though is that the ‘map’ can be inaccurate, particularly because at the time of interpreting information from the outside world (using our five senses of visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory, and gustatory), we engage perceptual filters called delete, distort, and generalise. This means we are filtering external events through our own biased lens of reality, such as belief systems, values, memories, and past decisions, following which we are likely to lose essential, pertinent information and facts.

What did you learn, that changed how you remembered a past event?

  • A map is a model of reality, but it’s not reality itself.
  • Treat a map as a map.
  • Assume it as a reference point.

If we have inaccurate maps, we are not seeing all the possibilities, and this limits our choice. Through language and communication, we are able to explain the World to others, and ourselves, important to note, our language reveals the maps we use to guide our behavior.

When our ‘map’ makes us unhappy, and we are stuck in our head – it probably means it time to update the language of our map. This is where the ‘Meta Model’ can be a valuable tool, as it is a series of questions designed to specify information, challenge, and expand the limits of our map of the world.

Use the Meta Model to  challenge and re map your language:

  • “What’s a different way that I can perceive this?”
  • “ Is there a different way of describing this?”
  • “Is this problem a real problem or is it just a part of my map”.
  • “ Try to switch the words, and it will give you a different perception.

Just like a road on a Google Map may be closed in real-life, people with healthy minds, seem to hold ‘The concept that our memory of the past, can change and be upgraded.

  1. Practising flexibility in your approach, opens more than just one perspective.
  2. Get curious and resourceful, research and gather more information, where applicable adopt a beginner’s mind – to gain a richer experience.
  3. Understand that the experience is not changing, it’s your perception of the experience that is changing.

Benefits of being open to upgrading your map of the past – increases choice and opportunity.

  1. Refining your language and questions, has the power to change or replace your generalised statements of the world, and ultimately create new choices from which you may choose.
  2. People with the most flexibility, increase their chances of achieving the outcomes they desire.
  3. The more options we have, the greater our chances of success.
  4. Rapport means meeting someone in their map of the world.
  5. We can rewire our minds, to achieve entirelydifferent outcomes.

In conclusion we all process information differently – there is no one approach that is “better” than another.

Next time you feel frustrated with your co communicator, consider what filters you may be using, that might be creating biased limitations for both of you, and your abilities to see each other’s perspectives. Try shifting your language – using the Meta model questions to reframe and be amazed at the outcome.