To really help us in building good communication skills, one of the key things to understand is that every person is unique and that means that how we each experience the world and what is true for us is also totally unique. We each have our own individual model of the world.
One of the frameworks of NLP is “The Map is not the Territory.” This basically means that what we perceive as reality, is not reality itself, but our own unique version of it.
How we uniquely experience the world, is through our senses. Each of us has preferred senses for communicating and also learning and the three senses we tend to use are visual, audio and kinaesthetic (Feeling, doing). There is no right or wrong or better or worse one to use and each of us will have a preferred sense, even if we are not aware of it!
Visual people have a preference for things that can be seen or observed. This includes pictures, diagrams, demonstrations, handouts, films. Preferring to read and make notes. They will use phrases such as “I see” “Show me” “My vision” “My view” “I’ll look into it” etc.
Auditory people prefer receiving information through listening. The spoken word of self or others, audio recordings etc. They are happy taking instructions over the phone and will probably know all the words to songs they hear! They will use phrases such as “Tell me” “Let’s talk about it” “I want to discuss” “I hear what you are saying” “That rings a bell” etc.
Kinaesthetic people prefer the physical experience! Touching, feeling, doing, being very hands on. They will experiment and go straight in to assemble something without looking at the instructions first! They will use phrases such as “I feel” “Get to grips with” “I’m in control” “I’ll pull some strings” “I want to get it done” etc.
Generally, individuals will have a main preferred communication style, although they will use a blend of all three, with one being more dominant. Some individuals have a very strong preference, others have a more even mix of two, although it is likely one will just be slightly more prevalent, much less common is a mix of three.
Our unique perception of how the world is and how we perceive it, also applies when we are given information.
When we receive information in “chunks” we filter it to match our unique reality, or our model of the world (known in NLP as a Meta programme General – Big Chunk Specific – Small Chunk) so that we are able to communicate and learn easily and comfortably.
If the information presented is too general or too detailed for our liking we lose interest and often start feeling uncomfortable and/or impatient. This causes difficulty in communication and learning.
Big Chunk Little Chunk
“Big chunk” people like an overview first. They talk in generalities and are bored with very detailed information. Once they have the whole picture, they make their own connections easily and jump from idea to idea. They can be vague about giving, or following, instructions. They will “switch off” if having a conversation with someone who is “small chunk” as they are receiving too much information. They may also become resentful and impatient if asked for more information by someone who is “small chunk” as they believe the information they have given is enough and will not understand why more is needed.
“Small chunk” people like lots of details, lists of information, and specific instructions. They are uncomfortable with vagueness, generalities and overviews. They reach conclusions and decisions based on small pieces of information and details. They become impatient in conversation with someone who is “big chunk” as they are not receiving enough information from them. They may become resentful or even angry with someone who is “big chunk” as they believe they are being deliberately vague or purposely withholding information from them.
Understanding and being aware of our own preference and the person we are communicating with, allows us to “adapt” to that person’s preference. For example, if you are “big chunk” and the person you are speaking to is “small chunk,” adapting to “small chunk,” will be more likely to result in a successful exchange.
When giving information to a group, where there is a mixture, using “big chunk” is preferable, as long as it is made clear in letting the group know that further information can be obtained if required. This will then meet the needs of individuals who are “small chunk,” without losing the interest of those who are “big chunk.”
Once we understand that everybody perceives how the world is in their own unique way, we can adapt to another person’s reality in our communication with them, which really helps to build rapport and encourage engagement, trust and openness, leading to good relationships.
Article Written By Janet Wilks, NLP Practitioner and Coach.