To arrive at a point of understanding with another it helps to understand they are not using the same map you are.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) tells us that even though we may believe other people are like us, the truth is each of us has a unique personal perception (or Map as we refer to it in NLP) of the world. As human beings, we always respond to people, situations, events and circumstances through our internal maps. Our maps can be likened to camera lens filter. Every experience we have from the moment of birth to the present serve as filters through which we perceive current events in our lives. These filters, or maps, influence our reactions and decision making in the here and now. Two people who share an experience will often notice significantly different things about that experience, respond somewhat differently and store somewhat different memories of the experience.

In NLP we say, “the map is not the territory, it is our individual interpretation of the territory. This is important to note when communicating with others. Think of it this way, if you and I each hand draw a map from memory of how to get to a local restaurant those two maps will not be exactly alike and yet they both can be accurate enough to get us where we are going. Nevertheless, we need to understand that these differences are always going to be there because the true meaning of what we attempt to communicate to another person is not our intended meaning. The true meaning of any communication is what the listener interprets from the communication.

From this perspective the importance of coming to some understanding of the Map of person you intend to communicate with becomes obvious. If you want to be heard, you have to listen and allow the other person to be heard. Actively listening is the only way to gain understanding of another person’s map.
As such, NLP advocates that we tailor our communication and our overall interaction with others according to their maps as much as possible if we want to really get our message across.

In any given day everyone is bombarded with tons of information from all sides. It’s practically impossible for the conscious mind to register every bit of information that comes our way - as a work around the conscious mind then comes up with clever ways of filtering out information. Our maps of reality, therefore, are based on our unique filtering mechanisms. Doesn’t this aptly describe why there are so many conflicts in meeting rooms and homes? Your reality is your reality, their reality is their reality and no two minds are identical.

A performance appraisal is an ideal example of how our maps drive our actions. If three employees are given the same assessment, you will probably see three different reactions to it. One might burst into tears, the other might compare himself to someone who got an even worse score and the third might take it as an opportunity to improve in certain areas.

Regardless of how people respond, the beauty of the NLP technology is that it teaches us the nuts and bolts of how to (A) become aware of other people’s maps and (B) gear our communication in so that we get maximum results.

Author's Bio: 

Charles Bender MHR is a Certified Professional Life Coach, Clinical Hypnotherapist, Master Neuro-Linguistic Programming Trainer and Master Reiki Practitioner. He is the Programs Director for Chrysalis Institute LLC, Emotional Wellness Center located in Moore, Oklahoma. Charles also serves as Professional Life Coach for Information Technology at the University of Oklahoma one of Computerworld’s 100 Best Places to Work in IT 2010.