The map is not the territory

Date of publication: June 15, 1990

Author: Wendy Gordon


Neuro-Linguistic Programming is a phrase that can be very off-putting, yet it sums up three very simple ideas that form the core of the insights and discoveries Grinder and Handler made. The 'Neuro' part of NLP recognises the fact that all human behaviour is neurologically based. We experience the world through sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch - the five senses - and then make 'sense' of the information. This neurological process is both invisible and visible, occuring as electro-chemical transmissions in our nervous systems as well as constantly changing physiological responses. The 'Linguistic' component of NLP refers to the fact that we use language to order, classify and communicate these sensory experiences, whilst 'Programming' encapsulates the idea that we we all develop patterns of behaviour that we use (and re-use again and again) to achieve particular results. Thus NLP provides a model of understanding about subjective experience; how we organise it so we can make sense of the scramble of stimuli we receive; how we use language to share our unique experience with others; and how we act in response, either intentionally or unintentionally. The relevence of NLP to marketing, advertising and research lies in the fact that the early founders of this model spent a great deal of time trying to understand how excellent communicators achieve success whilst others do not. They began by studying three famous people - Virginia Satir, a famous family therapist; Gregory Bateson, a high profile anthropologist; and Dr Milton Erikson, a hynotherapist. Through processes of minute observations and careful listening, they found for example that Virginia Satir paid close attention to both the body posture and the linguistic patterns of her clients. Handler and Grinder found that poor communication and misunderstanding occurred when two people (or a person talking to a group) 'mismatched' i.e. diplayed different patterns of behaviour from another person, so breaking rapport. By copying their example and analysing what these excellent communicators were doing instinctively and unconsciously, Bandler and Grinder found that they could improve their communication skills without years of trial and error or intensive personal tuition. They went on to model all sorts of people such as athletes, business people, dancers, teachers and politicians, all the time becoming consciously aware of the processes involved in excellence. This paper will discuss two NLP models which have direct direct application to an understanding of brands and brand communication. These are: Representational systems and Hierarchical levels of communication.

Wendy Gordon


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