NLP and Language: I Didn’t Mean It That Way!

Filed Under (Life Coaching & NLP) on 20-07-2010

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One of the peculiarities of the English language is the phrase “do you know what I mean?”. And another is the phrase “I didn’t mean it that way!”. NLP has repeatedly proven that yes, you did mean it exactly that way at the time when you said it! How come?  I’ll show you…   

Every sentence someone utters comes from at least one of these three ways of the speaker’s being:

  • deletion
  • generalization
  • distortion

Deletion is deleting.  As we perceive the world, we pay attention to what we deem important.  We cannot pay attention to everything. We need to be selective, otherwise our senses would constantly be overwhelmed.  We ignore or simply do not notice a lot of potential information in our environment. This is exactly what deletion is.

When you’re telling someone about your vacation / holiday, you’re imagining the place exactly as it was when you were there with all the sights, sounds, people, action, smells, and tastes you experienced there.  But if you were to describe all that information to someone, you’d never finish talking!  So you delete a lot and only describe what you deem most important.

Generalization is generalizing.  Over time we begin to notice that some things stay the same, other things recur, and there’s consistency in our experience.  By noticing these regularities we simplify our understanding of them and draw conclusions. We devise laws and rules to predict (with varying degrees of success) what is likely to happen in future.  This is generalization.

Do you have to figure out what a door handle / knob is for every time you see one?

Distortion is distorting.  Each person lives in their own world. This world is our reality which has meaning for us.  Within our reality we make connections and interpret things at an abstract level.  Others live in their own realities which are very different from ours.  If we wish to engage with others, we need to discover something about their reality.  We’re likely to interpret and infer meaning from others’ states, behaviors, and utterances according to our reality. We often base our interpretations on minimal or no evidence, or make connections between disparate phenomena, sometimes without any sensory experience to check them out.  This is distortion.

How many times did you say or hear others say “I know exactly how you feel…”?  If only you did know!  You’ve no idea – until you ask!

So now we know that the ways to question what we and others say.  And now you understand, perhaps, why the phrase “I didn’t mean it that way” makes absolutely no sense!  Bear this in mind the next time you’re in conflict or misunderstanding with someone.  It’ll help and liberate you!  And another reason why you or the speaker did mean it exactly how you / s/he said it is that our language exactly reflects our thoughts.

Contact me for more on how you can apply NLP to language in practice.

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