Our brain is assaulted by over 11million bps (bits per second) of information, but it can only process a tiny fraction of that – 126 bps to be precise. So how do you decide which bits are worthy of attention? That’s the role of your filters. If you didn’t have filters, you would go into total overwhelm because of the differential between the volume of information that is coming at you, and the amount you can actually process.
You may be wondering what this has to do with your Professional Relationships … and the answer is that your ability to understand your own filters, and the filters other people use will dramatically affect your professional relationships and, therefore, your professional success.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) has a very clear and effective model that demonstrates how this works:
We interpret the external world through our five senses – through sight, touch, sound, smell, and taste. Then your unconscious mind takes over. It filters them through your memories, your beliefs about who you are, your values and morals that you have accepted from your parents or the surrounding culture, your language and whatever other filters you have in place, so that it can select the 126 bits that are relevant to you and group them in chunks of seven to nine pieces of information and make sense of them.
Therefore, your interpretation of those eleven million bits of information is going to be unique – completely different to any other person’s interpretation of the same information – and it will happen instantaneously and unconsciously.
Great … But how does that help me in my professional communications?
Imagine if you could instantly create connections with other people – connections and rapport that aren’t necessarily based on common interests, long-term interactions, or any other factors that you have no control over. Would that make it easier to close sales and handle clients?
It did for me, and it has for many of my clients. You see, our unconscious mind creates these filters so that we are able to handle the sheer volume of information that is coming at us, and we create a picture in our minds made up of just the information we decided to keep. In Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) terminology we call this an internal representation. This is as unique to you as your thumbprint – no two people’s filters are the same – and it explains why two eye-witness can give completely different accounts of the same event. We all delete the information that we don’t think is relevant and we distort and generalise based on the filters we have developed so that we can reduce the information to manageable levels.
Your internal representation is basically a mental picture about what any given situation means to you. The details in this mental picture influence how you feel, which determines your physical response to the situation. Then you use that mental picture to form a response. If you are talking to someone your response will indicate what that picture means to you.
As a listener this means that if you pay attention to someone’s language, you can quickly learn about their filters. Thus, whenever you are talking to someone you can speak to them in a way that bypasses their filters.
Language, Learning Styles and Preferred Communication Models
In the ongoing debate about education, you may have heard some of the discussion about learning styles. I don’t actually agree with most of the discussion around this area. The prevailing attitude puts people in boxes, rather than opening up new options and making them resources and I think that’s a criminal thing to do to anyone – especially a child!
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) respects people’s preferences – and acknowledges that if we want to build rapport with others, we need to go over to where they are, not expect them to come to us. Communication styles are very similar to learning styles – we all have a preferred way of filtering the world – through visual, auditory, or kinaesthetic modes (and both our preferred learning style and our preferred communication style are usually linked). If we can quickly discover a person’s preferred style of communication, and use language that reflects it we can quickly build rapport with almost anyone.
The best communicators in the world – the people whose words everyone listens to, even if they disagree with their ideas – have very flexible communication styles. If you are speaking to a group, using language that resonates with a variety of communication models is ideal, if you are just speaking to a single person you will find it much easier to build your relationship if you identify their preferred mode of language, and use it with them.
Their pose will quickly change from resistant to responsive. When we teach this in workshops and our students go out and practice identifying and using the appropriate model we usually get an excited phone call within a day or two from people who say, “I can’t believe what a change this has made! I talked with X, who is usually quite stiff and resistant, and closed the deal we’ve been negotiating for 3 months.