Sunday 26 August 2012

The Map is not the Territory

NLP has a number of operating beliefs that it invites us to try on and notice the impact they have on us. One such belief or presupposition is 'The map is not the territory'

What is a map? It's a condensed representation of reality (the territory). It generalises, deletes and can sometimes distort. You can get lots of different maps for the same location - different scales, different focus (contours, paths, places of interest, trig points etc), different sizes, colour coded and so on. You know when you use a map that it doesn't exactly represent the location, but if you've picked the right one know you've got the relevant information you need. So if you're driving you won't pick up the walking map and visa verse. However just think how differently you'd see the world from each map? Neither is right or wrong just coming from a different perspective.

That's what our memories are like? Maps of events based on where our limited attention was focused. So my 'map' of an event may be very different to someone elses 'map'.

Remembering that the map is not the territory can be very helpful in communication. Sometimes it's very easy to express something as if it's the truth rather than our belief or our interpretation of the situation. If we remember that our memory of an event will have generalised, deleted and distorted as much as a real map it can't help but change how we communicate. Remembering of course that the other person has their own map too.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Sowing the seeds for effective communication in Purchasing

This post is part of a series introducing some NLP tools and techniques that can significantly improve your stakeholder engagement, communication and team working.

Picture source: via Alison on Pinterest

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