Language is in the heart of NLP and in its very name too! NLP means Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Here I concentrate on the linguistic part of our programming. So language definitely deserves a huge chapter! Language is important because be it verbal or nonverbal, it is the basis of communication of living creatures. Animals have their language. And if language wasn’t important, would people develop hundreds of its forms? How is NLP connected with language? And what tricks can an NLP-lay member of the general public take home from this blog and apply to his/her life?
What applies to any language is that whenever people say or write things, they leave out a lot of information. Otherwise it would take forever to describe anything. So the language we read or hear is the tip of a huge iceberg. And it is taken for granted that we will fill in the submerged parts in order to make sense of the communication – given the context we’re in and what we know about the other person. We can find out what exactly is in the submerged part of the iceberg by asking questions that we hope will give us more information. In many people’s lives it is rare to actively seek further information from the speaker. People are more likely to do so when confused, when they disagree, or when they need more information in order to achieve their purposes. When we start to examine what people [and ourselves] say, we find that we take a huge amount for granted, leave a vast amount of information out, make sweeping generalizations [that have few or no qualifications], and make meaning of absolutely any utterance we read / hear.
Communication is not only about the specific sentences that a person utters. Each person has a history and exists in a particular context. The combination of this history and context gives meaning to what the person says. S/he has learnt to describe the world in which s/he is living in certain ways, often symbolically and metaphorically, and takes a lot of that world for granted. The more you find out about how people think, the more you realize how very different they are from you. People live in radically different worlds – with vastly different presuppositions. It is amazing that we manage to communicate at all!
We may notice these differences when people are being specific. But when the language they use is vague, we usually invent meaning based on our experience and this may have nothing in common with what the person is talking about! Nevertheless, you often hear people say: “I know exactly what you mean”. If only!
Therefore part of clarifying communication is eliciting more information about the context of the communication. This is where NLP comes in. What is vague? What has been left out? What is possible? What are the rules here? What is true for this speaker / writer?
You can start with yourself: take one of your habits of speech and start exploring it by asking:
- What makes me say this?
- What led to me saying this?
- Why am I saying this?
- What am I hoping to achieve by saying this?
Contact me for more on NLP and language.