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Leadership at the peak

The deep structure of communication

By George W Nyabadza

THE NLP model, disscussed last week, identifies three key qualities that excellent communicators live by; Identifying explicit

and achievable outcomes; Using sensory awareness to notice responses; and Flexibly altering behaviour to achieve outcomes.

This week I would like to share with you the key aspects of the second quality. As in last week’s discourse and the following week’s I draw heavily from my training as a qualified NLPer and the vast body of theory that now makes up this exciting field of transformation.

NLP notes that for human beings to “think” we use the representational systems of the five senses:sight, hearing, feeling, touch and taste.

This ability enables us to present to ourselves again (re-presentation) information that we originally saw, heard, felt, smelled or tasted.

Thus we can represent the last pleasant weekend we had by using the specific sights, sounds, sensations and smells of that experience or we can use an even more short-cut system, we can use words and say “taking it easy at home”.

NLP identifies two maps that structure our communication. When NLPer’s talk of maps we are stating that the structure we have identified is the closest approximation there is available at that moment to the real thing. But just as with a real geographic map, NLP works of a pre-supposition that states “the map is not the territory”.

In other words, the route map you have to get to Kariba is not the actual territory; there is more substance and depth to the real thing.

The two communication maps are neurological and linguistic; neuro, refers to our nervous system/mind and how it processes information and codes it as memory inside our body (neurology); linguistic indicates that the neural processes of the mind come coded, ordered, and given meaning through language.

In describing the last pleasant weekend at home we could begin by exploring the experience using our sense representation (visual, auditory, feelings etc) which leads to the establishment of an operating neurological map.

However, when we move to the sensory-based words we create instead a linguistic map of the experience. If we accept the notion that words function in our consciousness as a “map of reality” then words work to provide us a scheme, model or paradigm about that reality.

To the extent that the words we speak, or those that the other person speaks, correspond to the territory or experience they seek to represent, they provide us an accurate map which we can then respond to in effective communication. To the extent that they do not, they give us a distorted map with significant parts left out or with parts over-generalised and if we respond to this inaccurate map we get “noise” in our communication.

NLP takes cognisance of the limitedness of words in its own communication model hence there is a significant focus on the need to develop sensory acuity skills, which train our ability to see, listen and read more effectively and consciously non-verbal communication cues.

Sensory acuity refers to the ability to notice, monitor, and make sense of the external cues from other people, as the latter constantly and inevitably sends out unconscious external signals of some of their internal processing states. Sensory acuity is developed primarily by beginning to notice one’s own sensory-based responses, that is by consciously living in the now.

As you read this article, take note of what you see, the type of paper this is printed on, the style of font, what is there directly in front of you and in the peripherals of your vision.

Then take note of what you hear, within a metre of you, within the room or space you are in, how about 10 metres away and even further? Then pay attention to the feelings you are experiencing; the internal feelings deep in you, are you excited, anxious, sad or happy? How about the sensations on your skin, do you feel the paper, the clothes and the air around you?

By merely seeking to respond to these questions you are already beginning the process of developing your sensory acuity, the ability to notice the deeper neurological structures of communication that lie beyond the surface linguistic patterns.

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