does this make sense to you?

senses NLP
We experience life through our senses. We see, hear, feel, smell and taste our experiences.

Our brains code them in this way. Our memories are accessible through our senses and, when recalled, we experience, represent or rather ‘re-present’ them through our senses.

If you recall now something that happened to you last week, you will be doing so either by seeing the situation in your mind’s eye, or by re-feeling how you felt then, or by hearing the conversation again, maybe even smelling something…

This process works both ways. We ‘think’ of a memory and re-present it through our senses. Or, we have a sensory experience today and that triggers another memory where the sensory experience was similar. Have you ever had the experience of a smell taking you back to a childhood memory?

This process also works for the future – imagined future experiences are presented to us through our senses. We can imagine our holiday or that difficult conversation we have next week and we can create images, feelings, internal dialogue predicting that future experience.

We all have favourite senses to use for this. I wrote about this some weeks ago when I asked How do you think? and hypothesised that without our senses we have no experience.

We often have a primary sense, for many that is visual, but might be auditory or feeling, backed up by one or two other senses that create our experience. Some senses are less available to us in this process.

Our language reveals our preference. It shows on the outside, the way we are coding our experience on the inside.

“I hear what you say” is different to “I see what you mean”.

There are many idioms in English that we use to signal our sensory preferences for coding our own experience. Often we’re not consciously aware, nor are those around us. But it can be useful to know.

Do phrases such as these appear in the way you describe things? “Let’s get a different perspective” or “Let’s take a closer look at this”? These might be examples of a visual storage system. Whereas, “That doesn’t sound right to me”, “This really speaks to me” or “Once we get into the rhythm of the meeting” might suggest an auditory preference. Those who work with feeling, or kinaesthetically, might say “I need to take the pressure off” or “I’m aching to get on with this”…

This will be a recurring theme on this blog in coming weeks, so be curious about your practice and about what makes sense to you.

if I were a malteser…

what this says about me
A few years ago, during some training, I did this exercise. It proved an interesting learning experience and so I offer it to you.

Write down the first three things that come to you. The names of things, nouns, work best. Don’t filter them, reject them as ridiculous, decide to choose a ‘better’ one; just go with the first three things, however seemingly random or crazy.

Now, against each noun in turn, write down the properties of that thing. Whatever you are reminded of by that named thing. The qualities it is best known for. Write down just one or two qualities / properties for each.

Once you have done this, return to each quality and ask yourself, ‘what does that say about me?’ Work through each quality for each named thing.

Now look at what you’ve written, about you.

How much of this is true? How much was known to you? How much was known to those close to you? What is new, what have you learned? What else is true about you? What is missing?

When I did this, many years ago, the three things that came to me were an owl, the wind and a malteser. No idea why, but I’m guessing my subconscious decided those were what I needed.

Of course the properties I chose for those three items, were again probably a subconscious offering, after all I could have chosen many properties. Equally where that led me to, in terms of what that said about me, could have taken me many routes. In point of fact it took me to some things I already knew, deep down, but bringing them to the surface, to my conscious mind, was helpful. It also reminded me of something I had forgotten, or lost, in my journey of life. To see it again was like greeting a long lost friend. But perhaps of greatest use of all, was to see what I had written about me; all together, on the page.

We don’t often write down our most profound qualities. Our deepest truth.

Enjoy. Let me know how it goes – I would genuinely like to hear.

to run or not to run…?

tube run steve
The other week I posted something about my NLP training in Hammersmith and the coffee experience. I attended the training with a friend, and at the end of each day we would go to the tube station – the Hammersmith and City line rather than the Piccadilly. It’s a terminus, so trains are usually ready in the station, waiting patiently at a platform for their fresh cargo.

Each and every day we would stroll up to the ticket barrier, move through and see the display board signalling which platform the next train departed from. Most days there would be a train at that platform.

Then something strange would happen.

My friend would quicken his pace and often break into a run. Sometimes a sprint. I would be left to saunter down the platform and find him in his chosen carriage.

After a few experiences of this we began to ‘unpack’ these two contrasting behaviours. Initially I mocked him, because I had never missed the train, but we were curious about what lay deeper in this behaviour.

There was superficial evidence that might support certain theories. My friend was a runner. He ran for pleasure regularly. I did not. He was, and probably still is, much fitter than me – so he had more capability to behave that way and running was a familiar activity. Typically I don’t run for anything.

At a deeper level though, time isn’t important to me. So the possibility of missing a train wasn’t a significant issue, but more than that, it presented an opportunity. I would have time to watch the world and the people in it. I would have time to sit quietly and ‘be’. My friend’s map of the world was different – he had many things to do, things to get done, so missing a train would deny him possibilities.

We still see this pattern today, not with trains, but elsewhere. He tries to fit a lot into his life. I’m more content to see what life offers in this moment.

There will of course be more depth, more detail in explaining our run/saunter behaviour at Hammersmith, but the joy is discovering that.

So be curious about what you do … every little thing, from choosing what to eat for lunch, to buying new shoes, to how you plan your weekend or even how you live your life.

It’s not about running or not running. It’s about knowing or not knowing.

If you don’t take time to know yourself, who else is going to?

what does the map say?

constellation map
If you have a family, you may have heard yourself say something like this…?

“My brother looks to his eldest sister…”
“Our daughter is closer to her mum…”
“There’s always been distance between me and my brother…”
“There was a time when we were close…”

This language seems to suggest that we have an unconscious map inside, not only of the relative proximity of ourselves to other family members, but also their distances and orientations to each other; almost a sense of who is looking which way, where their attention is drawn, where they ‘stand’.

These maps would appear to be deep in our subconscious and in some way describe ‘what is’. They represent a form of truth.

The maps exist in our organisational worlds too. Individuals, teams, departments, functions, divisions can all have hidden relationship maps. Connections that can also exist through time – loyalties and ‘closeness’ to predecessors, founders, old colleagues lost through the last ‘organisational transformation’.

As with families, these maps inform behaviours, present and absent, they provide clues to broken connections, hidden loyalties, deep stuckness.

If you’re feeling stuck and have tried to logically find a way forward, try a different approach to finding a way out.

Build a map.

Decide the context and use a space on your desk to represent it – maybe it’s team dynamics, or the relationship with a colleague, or why the project doesn’t move forward?

Now find something to represent the most important parts. Any object will do, you just need to be able to indicate orientation (where attention is drawn). I sometimes use those little UHT milk jiggers. Place the most significant representative piece. Often this might represent you.

Where are you in this system, and where are you ‘looking’? Take some time to notice this – what does it feel like, what’s true, what’s new to you?

Now place the next most important piece of the map. Trust your instinct, don’t over think. Again take time to notice this piece’s relationship to you, where its attention is drawn. What does this feel like? What’s true? What do you notice?

Build the map slowly. Take time to acknowledge what is, don’t rush to make changes.

This approach is a method related to systemic constellations – a technique for exploring the truth of relationship systems. It was developed from family therapy and is now used in coaching and organisational development.

I recommend some research and a great book by John Whittington, who you can find here

Meanwhile, stay curious about your relationship maps and this hidden truth in your subconscious.

the true meaning of coffee …

beliefs change
Many years ago I trained as a master practitioner in Neuro Linguistic Programming. I trained with a friend.

The training was near Hammersmith in London and at the beginning of each day we would go for a cappuccino and a bacon sandwich at a little Turkish coffee shop nearby. Although the training modules were several months apart, on seeing us enter at the beginning of a new module the owner would always recall our order – one sandwich on white, one brown, one without butter etc.

That coffee shop has sadly gone now, but that experience still anchors me to that time of learning, and I doubt the owner and his cheery waitress have any knowledge of how much that stays in my memory.

It serves to remind me that interactions between human beings can sometimes have more importance than their seemingly ‘low level’ content might suggest; they can carry more meaning than those involved at the time might ever realise; the spoken word or behaviour may have a completely different result or impact to that intended at the time – indeed one NLP presupposition is that the meaning of the communication is the result it elicits, not necessarily the one the giver intended.

Every day, all day, we give out communication, consciously and unconsciously. Everyone we meet takes their own meaning from that, even if several people experience the same ‘message’, each will create their own meaning.

In our early years, much of this gives rise to our beliefs about the world. Some of that serves us well in later life. Some does not.

The parent with the adolescent child, studying for their exams, will doubtless have the best intention to support them. Comments such as ‘never mind, you did your best’ or ‘all you can do is try’, have positive intentions. Yet I have seen such people in the middle of their lives, still running a belief that ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘I have to work hard’ or even a more complex belief such as ‘If I don’t succeed nobody will love me’.

Spoiler alert: you probably believed in Father Christmas when you were small. Your parents span the yarn. It served you to believe – you got toys, chocolate, the excitement of presents to unwrap, and as a child that’s desirable. My guess is most of you no longer believe in Father Christmas.

The meaning we take at one point in our lives doesn’t have to be the meaning we live with. Trying hard when you’re 15 might be useful – please a parent, pass an exam. Trying hard later in life, when your work life balance is out of kilter, or when you’re in a job you loathe, or when you’re burning out through effort, or when you just want your boss to notice you, isn’t necessarily so helpful.

The barista can make many coffees.

You have a choice whether yours will always be the same.