Understand people better and communicate more effectively using these two powerful principles

I was always known to be a happy and positive person but then three years ago something happened and I changed. I lost my father, my role model and my mentor and life went on a downward spiral soon after. Overnight I was a different person- less patient, less positive and less empathetic towards people around me. I was irritable and would get increasingly annoyed with friends and family members on everything that I didn’t agree with.
It’s during this unsettling phase in my life that I decided to take up a formal Neuro-Linguistic Programming training and certification. Other than the obvious intention of adding more credibility to my training and HR consultancy as a licensed practitioner, I had heard that NLP enables you to understand people better. It helps you in changing your behaviour by releasing you from negative memories, thoughts, and feelings. And that’s exactly what I was hoping for.

While NLP revolves around many different concepts that can be very helpful, much of the the first day of the training was based on NLP presuppositions. Learning about these presuppositions led to a dramatic shift in my thinking from the very first day and I could relate why people claimed the training to be a life transforming experience. And whilst there are quite a few NLP presuppositions that form the basis and foundation of the latter in this post, I shall only be sharing the ones I found to be most helpful to me and which really helped me in letting go of my negative feelings and helped me in communicating better. Here they go:

Each individual has a unique map of the world and each one responds to it differently:

This is such a powerful concept and explains why some people react so differently from you even when you are faced with similar situations. Do you often feel frustrated with someone for what he/she does or does not do? Well, that’s because, simply put, he is not you. His map is different from yours. His perceptions, his perspectives and his model of the world and hence his way of acting or reacting will not necessarily be the same as yours, in fact, he could possibly be way different from what you believe in or expect. It’s almost like looking through different coloured, tint glasses. When you look through the red one, the world appears red and when you look through the blue one, the world is blue! Similarly, each individual views the world through his or her own shade of tint and this could be same or very different from yours.

Think of any objection, concern or even complains you have had with someone in the recent past:

Why is she so aggressive? Why is he so submissive? Why can’t she take a stand for herself? Why doesn’t she reciprocate love and kindness, the same way I do? Why can’t they be more genuine? Why does he always compare? Why is he always so negative? Why can’t she be more realistic? Why is she so cold and expressionless? Why are they so thankless? Why can’t she be warmer? Why is he so hyper and over excited all the time? Why can’t she move on and get over it? What! he has already moved on, oh but why?

These and many more similar queries will often come up, when you are encountering various people in your life, every day. It is but natural to be affected by what people you care about, do or do not do. However, when you start acknowledging ‘the difference of maps’ in various individuals in your life, you will start becoming more empathetic and understanding of how and why they react, the way they do. Another very helpful NLP framework which can help you in understanding people better is that of meta programs. Using this framework, you can identifying the preferred pattern of thinking for yourself and/ or your colleague or partner and come to realise why they behave differently- it’s primarily because of inborn tendencies as a result of which people use their minds differently.

Now, I am definitely not suggesting that after reading this presupposition, you will transcend to an extraordinary, ethereal level where you will start viewing each and every person positively and favourably irrespective of what they do, but yes, after reading this belief, you may already be looking at different situations & people with a new light in your eyes.

The meaning of communication is the response you get:

At work or even at home we often feel exasperated for not being understood. Why doesn’t she listen? Why is it so difficult for him to understand? Why she always, misunderstands?

This is where this NLP assumption comes in handy! In every communication, our purpose is to influence the receiver. It could be either be an emotion, advice, instruction, statement or a combination of all these. Now, this communication will only be meaningful and will serve the purpose, if the recipient responds in a way, that you have intended him to respond. I once had a helper who habitually misunderstood every instruction I gave her which annoyed me profusely and even though I had promised myself not to react vehemently, I often ended up being thoroughly frustrated with her. After reading this presupposition, I belatedly realised that my communication failure with her was more my fault than hers! You see, before asking her to do anything I had already made up my mind instructions would have to be reiterated several times before I could expect them to be executed smoothly. The result being an irked tone of voice combined with vague details of what had to be done, shared rather halfheartedly. If I had varied my communication style the very first time until I had elicited the desired response, then I probably would have saved, both of us, more time and energy! Some communication variations include adjusting the tone of your voice, the volume, the speed, the facial expressions, eye contact as well the words themselves. It would be a good idea to ask yourself the following questions:

Are you using any jargon's? Have you given too many instructions in one go or did you leave out some important details? Is your tone too gentle or too firm? Are you squinting your eyes or furrowing your brows? Is there eye contact? Is the eye contact too intimidating? Do you look interested, annoyed, bored or tired?

The best way to know if you are on the same page as the recipient is to gauge the other person’s reactions and response; if they seem to be at ease, continue talking, if not, then go back to the previous questions and reassess your communication style. To summarise, in any communication initiated by you, much of responsibility to impact it positively lies with you and not the other party. Once you believe this premise to be true and start taking responsibility for what you want to exchange, trust me you will be an even better communicator than you already are.

These two powerful principals or presuppositions really helped me in reevaluating my relationships with several people and changed the way I looked at them and communicated with them and to be honest, it was quite liberating. After all, harbouring grievances and holding on to grudges can be quite draining, isn’t it? It’s okay to feel vengeful and resentful in some situations and also feel frustrated with some people but when you are lingering on it for too long and more than necessary, remind yourself of these two important principles and move on.

Hira Ali is the C.E.O of ed Management Consulting as well as Founder of Advancing Your Potential & Revitalize and Rise She is a Leadership Trainer, Motivational Speaker, Writer, Professional Coach & NLP Practitioner. Hira’s articles have been featured by the Huffpost, International Coach Federation, Thrive Global and Ellevate Network.

She tweets @advancingyou and can be contacted at hiraali@advancingyourpotential.com

This article was originally published in the Ellevate Network

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