Understanding Others

Many years ago I worked in a personal development training centre.  We offered a variety of courses but one of these was off the job training for the youth opportunity trainees:

It was a cold wet Wednesday.  I awake with the chatter next door as my neighbour the grounds keeper shouted at the rabbits on the lawn. My early comfort at the familiar awakening subsiding. Remembering it was the dreaded Wednesday - a day when I had to wander for miles over the moors while allowing the group of 16 and 17 year olds in my charge to navigate using the map and compass skills the course leader had taught them the previous day. This day I was on a route I did not know. I hated these journeys because of suffering from a circulation condition meant I would lose the circulation to my fingers while out on the moors.

I gathered my group. The group had appointed a navigator and a leader.  The group were entrusted with the task of collecting the map (with the route marked on it) and navigating across the moors. Each group had been given a different route as it was very much a group cohesion task and not one where groups competed. We set of each group to a different starting point scattered many miles across the bleak, boggy, heather covered moors.  The navigator deciding at each stage where we were to go.  

In these pre mobile phone days we were equipped with maps and a silva compass. We all wore bright orange trousers and kagoules and carried food to cook at lunch time, a spirit stove, and a whistle. 

As we began to walk the navigator looked at the map on the map board, brushing rain off of the plastic coating and shouting with enthusiasm. He looked around him and then at the map and seemed to easily recognise the landmarks.  There is that farmhouse. Here is this hill - this way is north etc.  At lunch time we stopped in the shelter of a dyke.  As they nursed the stove into life to heat their meal I casually picked up the map. My heart sank as I realised that the map we had been following was for a completely different area the group had collected the wrong map. Somehow they had made the territory fit the map.

In case you should be worried - of course I had the right map safely stored in my back pack so we were able to find our way back to the correct route and completed the 13 mile trek before night fell.

Some time later I moved to Cleveland as a training officer and on my first day going around the workshops and familiarising myself with the tasks carried out in each I heard someone say someone say “I’ve forgotten my bait”.  I questioned how they were finding time to go fiishing in the lunch break. Once the laughter subsided I was informed that bait is what I would refer to as lunch or a ‘piece’.  These words have a meaning based on our experience

Just as the underground map is a symbol of the underground system, represented in graphic but not realistic form, so our language is symbolic.  Words are not the reality.  Although the words we use to describe an event are chosen to represent the event, the words themselves are not the actual event itself.  We create our own reality based on our past experiences, beliefs and memories.  NLP teaches us that we can expandthe map of the world that we have. 

Rhona and Karen are twins raised in a busy home.  At an early age these twins learned to escapefrom their cots and their parents had to use bits of an old cot to prevent escape anddanger.  Rhona in adulthood referred to this as an act of cruelty on the part of theirmother.  Surprised to hear her sister say this, Karen told how she rejoiced in the fresh puzzle they were presented with and enjoyed finding ways to escape. For one it was a cage and for the other a puzzle.

Think of times when you have been surprised to learn that others do not think in the same way as you? We can so easily use our maps to navigate, or at least to make sense of the lives of others.  Instead maybe we can take some time to understand the map first. 

The first presupposition of NLP states that the map is to the territory