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.

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By popular demand we have turned many of our multi-day workshops into multi-week online courses with a live day to kick them off. Learn more at https://businessgrowth.mykajabi.com/masteryoursales


You probably know that not everyone shares your opinions about things, but have you ever thought just how often you make assumptions that lead to misunderstanding?

I’m convinced that most of our communication and relationship problems stem from the assumptions we carelessly make.  Once a friend from Portugal came to stay with me.  She was visiting Melbourne for a few days as part of her tour around Australia and she wanted to see the sights.  So I planned to take her along the Great Ocean Road, into the Dandenongs, and the Mornington Peninsula up to Arthur’s Seat and see all the wonderful beaches and views because those are all the things I love!

My thought was, “What can I show her that’s really beautiful and uniquely Melbourne?” and I assumed that she would want to see and do the things I would like, if I were in her position.  I was so busy making a program that fit my own assumptions about Melbourne that I completely missed the clues she gave me.  In conversations before her visit, she talked about the shows she saw when she was in London and how much she loved the theatre and the arts.  She even mentioned an Art exhibition that was going on at the National Gallery and all that sort of stuff but I missed it completely. So we started doing the things I had planned and she was miserable the whole time and I’m thinking, “How come she’s not enjoying herself?  This is awful.”

The next day she asked, “How do I get to the trains and the public transport?” 

I said,  “Where do you want to go? I’ll take you.” 

And she says, “I really want to go to National Art Gallery and see an exhibition that’s on there at the moment” and it occurred to me that I’d just totally missed all the cues of the things that she wanted to do, I was so excited about bringing her and showing her all these things that I thought were really cool that I forgot to find out what interested her.

I see sales people and business owners all the time who are so concerned that they won’t say the right thing, that they miss all the cues.

They assume that people aren’t biting on the bait they’re putting out there because they’re not getting the words right.  In a lot of cases they’re so caught up on what they’re going to say next or what they’re going to do next that they don’t actually hear the buying signs from the clients.

Most people actually tell you what they need if you’re listening carefully enough.  Sometimes I do role-plays with my clients where I actually get them to sell to me and it’s really interesting watching them just make assumptions about what my needs could be rather than actually spending some time asking some questions.

This comes back to the part of the sales process we are actually finding out information from the clients.  So the first thing that people who are not necessarily well versed in sales do is they go in and they’ve prepared all the things that they’re going to say to make sure that that client gets interested in what they want them to be interested in.  In actual fact the best thing you can do when you go into a sales meeting is to ask some questions and then shut up and listen.

Then you listen some more – and if you open your mouth at all, it’s to ask questions about the things they are saying.  If you do that, I can just about guarantee that you will learn what you need to know to close the sale.  You would really be astounded to learn how many sales are lost just because we make assumptions about what the other person is looking for.

One of the most powerful tools of NLP is learning to ask questions and read the other person – not to manipulate them, but to hear what their problems and concerns really are.  The techniques I learned have closed more sales, and resolved more communication issues than I can count.

Meta Description: How do assumptions kill sales and negotiations?  Let me count the ways. Assuming you know what the other person is going to say is a very dangerous habit, and will kill sales faster than just about any other thing you can do.

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By popular demand we have turned many of our multi-day workshops into multi-week online courses with a live day to kick them off. Learn more at https://businessgrowth.mykajabi.com/masteryoursales


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