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NLP Communication Model

The diagram below is a representation of the NLP communication model as presented in the book Time Line Therapy by Tad James and Wyatt Woodsmall. Click on the diagram if you would like a larger view (which will open in a new window).

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The NLP communication model is another of the building blocks that forms the foundation of all NLP techniques. Learn this one thoroughly and you're well on your way to a solid appreciation of NLP.

This model is a way of explaining how we take information from the outside world into our neurology and how that in turn affects our behaviours.

The process begins with an external event which enters our nervous system through the five senses that make up our sensory input channels:-

These sensory input channels are often referred to in NLP by their initial letters - V, A, K, O and G respectively.

The NLP communication model includes the notion that our five senses take in up to 2,000,000 (two million) bits of information per second. The notion further states that our conscious mind can only process 7+/-2* chunks of information per second which equates to approximately 134 bits per second. It doesn't take a math degree to see that our fantastic senses make available far more information than the conscious mind can usefully cope with - so what happens to the rest?

The incoming information passes automatically through a number of filters to reduce the information down to the 7+/2* chunks or (roughly) 134 bits that our conscious mind can cope with. The filters do this by:-

Deletion - to attempt to actively pay attention to everything entering though our sensory input channels would not be useful. Thus we omit certain parts of our current experience by selectively paying attention to certain other parts of it i.e. we focus on what seems most important at any one particular moment in time and allow the rest to pass us by.

A common example of why deletion is necessary is that of the use of mobile telephones whilst driving - statistics prove that so much information is deleted when we try to do these two tasks simultaneously that we end up doing both badly and sometimes with very serious consequences.

Distortion - occurs when we make shifts in our experience of sensory data by making misrepresentations of reality. Distortion is a key component of imagination and a useful tool in motivating ourselves toward our goals. When we plan we use distortion to construct appealing imaginary futures.

As another example ask yourself a simple question - would you recognise your best friend if they changed their clothes or styled their hair in a different way? Without the ability to distort reality the answer would be no. Every time your friend changed a single aspect of their appearance, hair length, hair colour, clothing type, clothing colour etc., you would have to learn that entire configuration and add it to the 'map' which you label 'my best friend'.

Each time you saw your friend the only way you could be sure it was them would be to mentally examine every 'version' of them in the map until you found one that matched the person standing in front of you. Add in the fact that they look different depending on their facial expression, physical posture, state of health etc., etc. and the number of combinations you would have to learn just to recognise your friend would be huge! If you have more than one friend then you really have your work cut out for you!

Thus we rely on distortion to allow us to identify a particular thing or person over a wide range of variance.

The example in the Presuppositions section for feeling less stressed during a job interview by picturing the interviewer in the nude is also a good example of distortion.

Generalisation - is the process by which we draw global conclusions based on one, two or more experiences.

A useful example of a generalisation is that of a door. We learn that a door is usually a conduit between two locations - an exit from one location and simultanously an entry into another location. We also learn that most doors are fixed along one side about an axis of rotation and that if we pull or push on the opposite side of the door it will open in one direction and close in the other. This is a superbly efficient form of learning as once we've learned how one door works we have the neccessary information to deal with doors of any colour, size, shape or composition in any location so long as they conform to that basic type and we can commit this information to memory for future use.

At it's best generalistion is an efficient means of learning information which can be applied globally. At it's worst it is the way we take a single event and turn it into a lifetime of experience i.e. most phobias arise as a result of a one-time learning.

*7+/-2 (seven plus or minus two) represents the number of chunks of information that the conscious mind can usefully attend to at any point in time. To clarify, in optimum conditions i.e. calm, relaxed, quiet, focussed, an average person could attend to up to 9 chunks of information at any one time. Under less than ideal conditions i.e. noisy, stressed and distracted by other things, an average person may only be able to attend to 5 chunks of information at any one time. Most of the time the average person can attend to 7 chunks of information at any one time.

Chunk size is variable and usually relates to the complexity of each chunk. Further explanations relating to chunking can be found elsewhere on this website.

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