The "map" is NOT the TERRITORY!
This is the single most important "presupposition in NLP" and there are many other presuppositions generated from it.
But, What does it mean?
People respond and make choices according to how they perceive the world and NOT necessarily the absolute reality. Our perception of reality IS our own version of it and is our "map".
We often say, “Stand in my shoes!”
What are we trying to imply? It simply means, look at my problems, issues and my predicaments from my perspective and values and emotions I might be feeling. No two people have exactly the same map. Even though, we have similar neurological structure, it functions differently in all of us.
Neuro Linguistic Programming tries to resolve “How to communicate effectively". In this case, it happens when we are not trying to impose our "map" on someone else but, instead we try to understand and relate to others through their "map' or reality.
Here’s how we can understand the reality and it’s perception.
We have mental filters. Our conscious mind has a limited number of chunks of attention, around 7. These chunks are the amount of information our senses can take in, each moment from the world around us, and we are unconsciously filtering the information.
We have to do this filtering, if we don’t, our mind will be overloaded and the world will appear to be a continuous buzz. To help ourselves this filtering is done either by deletion, distortion or generalization.
We are huge fans of "filtered coffee". When we pour coffee through a filter, not everything passes through. The coffee sediments are left in the filter paper. Similarly the information is ‘poured in’ as INPUT FOR OUR CONSCIOUS from our environment (media, social structures, religion, culture, political etc.) and we filter it utilizing our belief structure, UNCONSCIOUS OUTPUT, which reflects in our behaviour patterns.
Since we can’t take in all of the information coming in (only 7 chunks), we delete some information ~ filtering out the non-essential information, we distort the information (e.g. the Technicolor elephant), or we generalize it (e.g. All redheads are fiery).
Now let’s look at the definition of a ‘map’.
A map is a resource, a guidance to find your way in an unknown territory in the geographical way. It’s a schematic representation of the features of the landscape. A schematic diagram or picture shows something in a simple way. It reduces the size and the complexity of the landscape and uses a variety of conventions to highlight the features considered to be important to the user. Even the same landscape can be represented in different ways depending the function of the map.
The traveller will use the map because it is useful, it’s clear with the interrelationships between different lines and they are shown simply. The traveller doesn’t need to know how the lines wandered about in precise relation to the surface above. He or She only needs to make a decision about where to change and where to get off.
It doesn’t matter how true the map is, in relation to the territory. As a map could be road map, street A-Zs, relief maps showing population density, weather patterns, languages spoken, which religious practice in which area etc. etc.
However, is every detail useful to the traveller?
The usefulness of the map depends on WHAT YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH WITH THE MAP and that is the implication / consequence of the map - not the territory.
If a map works in context, it’s said to be a good map.
Map users get familiar with the maps they use:
In schools the teacher is using a map called a ‘Syllabus’ to make sure all of the requisites of the course are taught. The same syllabus is used through out the city, province or even the country. But do all students learn the same exercises, text etc.? Or, is dependent on ‘how the teacher is teaching the subjects, with her examples, exercises, tests etc.
The teacher is working with the premise, “Does it work? Is it a good map? Is it true?” The teacher is trying to give his/her students an experience of something, it’s already being filtered by his/her ‘reality’, as the students experience it in the now, it is subject to deletions, distortions and generalizations of their filters.
What about the therapeutic map?
The more we use any one map, the greater the tendency that we will assume it to be real rather than a mere schematic representation. Once, we have done that we begin to believe that the map is indeed the territory and our constructs have objective reality.
Eric Berne, was a transactional analyst who developed the psychoanalytic theory and method of therapy wherein social transactions are analyzed to determine the ego state of the patient (whether parent-like, child-like, or adult-like) as a basis for understanding behavior. He once said, “Just remember, the parent/adult/child model is really useful, but don’t be fooled into thinking that everything is reducible to three little circles!”
We also get used to the maps we are familiar with.
Probably most of us have experienced some irritation when a favourite form of map (say a motorist’s guide) has been redesigned. We like our maps the way they were!
When understanding other people, whether it be in your personal relationships, colleagues, your customers, or clients understanding the concept of "maps" can help you place yourself in their shoes, knowing their perception of a "thing"(territory) may be completely different from your own or from others, understanding their perspective and allowing you to become a better communicator with that person, perhaps by revising your approach to that person. Understanding maps is a powerful tool to getting desired outcomes.
Would you want to be an excellent communicator and create the reality you want?
Just like NLP models the excellence in communication, NLP’ers can bring the excellence of communication to others and become the model for others;
NLP has tools and processes to learn/improve and excel communication and that’s where success and empowerment starts, making a difference and easing the stress and anxiety in all areas of life.
Just like the Olympic flame, the torch relay of modern times, transports the flame from Greece to the various designated sites of the games, it is said to symbolize the indomitable will of the Olympic athletes as they compete for their respective countries and let go of all “maps” in the spirit of Olympics.
The trained NLP’er discovers what makes us wonderful human beings and communicate without our maps. As an NLP’er: you can help younger generation grow “Self Esteem.” You can assist adults finding jobs of their liking and being productive. You can help them improve their relationship with friends, colleagues, boss, spouse and children. You can help ease the tension between teachers and students and make them feel good about their results and choices.
If you want to become a better communicator check out our options for 1:1 Breakthrough sessions or join us for an upcoming Success Empowerment workshop to gain some great tools to become a better communicator, get better outcomes and get on the path to success in everything you do.
The thing about the Olympic Flame is – it should be lit up first!