communication myths
communication myths

Article by Dr.L.Michael Hall and Mr Shawn Dwyer  ~

Given that NLP is a Communication Model and Neuro-Semantics is an Integrated Communication Model- communication is our business.  That is also why we often, instead of giving a “NLP Practitioner” certificate, we give a Professional Communicator Certificate.  After all, that’s what neuro-linguistics and neuro-semantics is all about- how we communicate meanings and understandings to ourselves and to others.  And in this, there are numerous communication myths that we have to expose as we train people in advanced communication competencies.

Myth #1: Communication is talking.

People who are deceived by this myth falsely think that by doing more and more talking, they are communicating more.  Others may think that effective communication is equal to the gift of gab.  But it is not!  Professional communicators know that communication involves listening as much as talking.

Talking, in the sense of advocating what you think, feel, and want is only part of communication, and actually it is a minor part.  The word communication itself speaks of a co-union and a communion of two or more persons who interchange ideas, listen to each other, and seek first to understand then to be understood.  Real communication is a collaborative adventure of discovery and, at its best, is a dialogue.

Myth #2: Communication is a one-way process.

Since real communication is not talking, to truly communicate, you have to engage in a two-way process that is more like a dance.  It involves both sending and receiving messages, receiving feedback and reflecting and adjusting, and learning, and co-creating the experience.  In communication, we compare message sent and received to see if they match.  Then we seek to match the other person’s model of the world in order to understand the other person on his or her terms.  In the reflecting process, we check on our own messages to check if we are being congruent and accurate.

Myth #3: Communication is easy.

The only person who could possibly think that this is easy is the person who has not tried it.  When you engage in the process of listening, entertaining another’s ideas, questioning and exploring, re-presenting your own ideas- you will quickly find out that it is challenging and demands a lot of you.

It demands attention, focus, being present, thinking, etc.  The dialogue process is actually a much more difficult challenge than most people imagine.  The challenge is due to the many variables involved, and the ability to truly listen, consider, ask good questions, get one’s ego-investments out of the way, to recognize one’s own thinking and emoting filters, and more.  All of these skills require training and practice in order to become truly competent in communicating.

Myth #4: Communicating is simple.

Rather than being simple, real communication is complex because it is multi-layered.  It is complex also due to the many, many variables involved.

With the messages sent and received, there is also the creation of multiple contexts of those messages.  Complicating things is the language used, the non-verbals, the history of a relationship, and the multiple levels of thinking and emoting.  There are also the multiple frames which govern the meanings and for those you have to go meta.  Then there are the 60 possible meta-programs which filter how each person thinks and perceives.  So getting on to another person’s channel is most challenging.

Myth #5: Communication is saying what you mean and meaning what you say.

If only it was that easy and simple!  But alas, “meaning” itself is an internal constructing of understanding, of linking and associating things together, so that actually “words do not mean” anything.  It is people who use words to convey meanings.  We do the meaning-making and we use words (properly and improperly, appropriately and inappropriately) so that we often have to check with others about how they are using their words and share our own operational definitions.

The basic NLP communication guideline is, “The meaning of your communication is the response you get.”  Given that, you never know what you have communicated.  With a video-recording, you can know what you said, how you said it, the context, etc.  But you never know for sure what the other person heard.  Not until you get a response can you begin to guess the message that the other person constructed from what you said and how you said it.  It’s the co-creation of meaning that makes communication a shared construct.

There are other myths and many, many more communication guidelines in NLP and Neuro-Semantics- guidelines that can enrich leadership, management, parenting, love and much, much more.  For more, contact The Coaching Centre

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Thick Conversations – A challenge to clarity

Thick Conversations – A challenge to clarity

~ Article written by L. Michael Hall PhD ~
When I listen to some conversations, they seem and feel thick. It is not only difficult to have some conversations due to the assumptions that are built within them and the unpredictability of words, conversations can be difficult due to the density of words. Here is another language problem that makes conversations difficult, namely-

The Density Of Language

This refers to the fact that some words and some phrases are exceptionally dense. The density or compactness within some words make it very difficult to unpack the meaning and to understand. Density arise from how words can carry a heavy load of ideas. That is, a lot of thoughts, a multitude of ideas, and multiple levels of meanings can be packed into a single word or phrase.

Compressed Meaning

Horne Tooke (1832) discovered and wrote about this fact regarding language back in the nineteenth century. What he wrote about was the structural parts of language- the prepositions, conjunctions, prefixes, suffixes, etc.
He noted that these parts of language, which once referred to full-fledged, ideas are whittled down to little symbols.

Condensation and Abbreviation

Furthermore Tooke said that over the centuries, through a continuous process of condensation and abbreviation, people cram more and more meaning into fewer and fewer words. What once took a whole sentence or a clause to express, came to be compressed it into a single word or phrase. He talked about language as “full of clever devices that make for more and more speed.” “A single participle or complex word can take the place of a cumbersome word-combination.” (p. 132).

Abstractions And Density

To illustrate, he used radioactivity as an example. “Most of the long, complex words in modern prose are not labels for things in the world around us – like radioactivity- but condensed expressions of abstract ideas that can be expressed just as well in two or more shorter words.” (135)

Here’s A Contemporary Example

A statement that was issued from the Veterans Administration. While it sounds like legalese, it is a description to employees about their compensation. How clear are you about the message that someone is trying to communicate?

“The non-compensable evaluation heretofore assigned you for your service-connected disability is confirmed and continued.”

Now try to discern the meaning in that one! The trouble is that the thoughts are bunched together in tight little bundles like “non-compensable’ or ‘service-connected.’ Talk about dense and compact! Yes, lawyers tend to write that way, politicians talk that way, and so do people who think in general or global ways. Here are some things I’ve heard in coaching-

“I really want to achieve success in my assertiveness when I speak with my colleagues and confirm the union of our joint commitment.”

Getting into the serenity of the present will give me more flow for a benevolence of connecting that I haven’t had in the past.

Difficult To Understand

If there is any language form that is dense it is nominalizations and when a person speaks with multiple nominalizations, the density of the sentences makes understanding and comprehension increasingly difficult.

“Threats to my self-esteem have been destructive to my relationship and needs to be corrected.”

Furthermore the italicized words are nominalizations– verbs that have been reformulated into nouns. But they are pseudo-names. It is not really “a person, place, or thing.” Yet it is a process and set of actions that are coded as if it were a thing. But it is not. So the person is either threatening himself or receiving a threat from someone that he is interpreting as against his process of esteeming (appraising) himself of value and he is saying that this process is destroying how he relates to someone. That brings up lots of questions:
Who or what is threatening? What is the threat? Is it legitimate or just words?
How are you valuing yourself as a person? Are you doing this conditionally or unconditionally? What criteria are you using in this appraisal that you are making?
When you hear the threat, how is that related to the valuing or dis-valuing yourself as having value? How are you using it to destroy how you relate?
Who are you relating to? How are you relating? How does you’re accepting of the threat to destroy your value?

Density! Compactness.

Some words and phrases are really loaded and have to be unloaded. Most noteworthy is the conversation cannot really continue unless we take time to unpack the meaning to actually understand what someone is saying.


Take the word “truth” for another example. Originally it meant, “that which is trowed.” And “to trow” meant to think, to believe firmly, to be thoroughly persuaded of. Implied within the term “truth” is the assumption that some person is thinking or believing something or thoroughly persuaded of. But what? What is the person thinking or believing? And who? Who is doing the thinking?


Finally, we have to unpack and that’s one of the functions of all conversations. We unpack from each other what the other person means by the words and gestures he is using.
Learn how to unpack words through Coaching Essentials, delivered regularly at The Coaching Centre

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The Conversation That You Can’t Have

The Conversation That You Can’t Have

~ Article written by L. Michael Hall PhD ~
Lots of conversations are easy and breezy, we chat away, gossiping a little here and there and seldom do we even remember much of what was said. Such are light and shallow conversations. Then there are the serious conversations- those that make a difference in life, that create turning points, asking someone to marry us, accepting a job offer, deciding to move to another city. And yes there are the difficult conversations- those are the conversations that we really do not want to have, perhaps due to fear of hurting someone’s feelings, evoking their wrath, being unable to handle what may come up, etc. Those we often put off and off and off hoping to never have them.

Then there is another category of conversations

They are they ones that go nowhere and that make us think that we simply live in a different universe than the other person. These impossible conversations arise due to the presuppositions that the other person begins with, the premises that they assume, and that they refuse to even consider as open for discussion. A current one that’s occurring on the mainstream media these days concern a pseudo-subject in the first place, “racism.” And yet by assuming that it exists, those who think this is the answer to every problem cannot even acknowledge the assumptions that they bring to the conversation.

Starting with the word race

Since we can’t have a real conversation without defining our terms, let’s do that. Let’s start with the word “race” and “racism.” We can’t do critical thinking if we don’t start with the unspoken and unrecognized assumptions.
“Race” sounds like a thing, as if you could go out on the street and see “race.” But it is not a thing. It is a mental category. Linguistically, it is a nominalization. That means it is a false noun. It sounds like a noun referring to a real “thing” that’s out there, “a person, place, or thing.” But it is not. I’ve often written about nominalizations since they create so much confusion. They arise when someone takes a verb and turns it into a noun. In doing so, they convert an active and dynamic process into a static “thing” which then, deceiving the mind, generates tremendous confusion.

“Race” as a nominalization contain a hidden verb. But what verb? The term implies that there are many “races.” But are there? Ironically it turns out that there is only one race- the human race. There are no sub-species of humans. We are all made of the same blood and DNA which is why we can so easily intermarry. What we incorrectly call different races are just different family groups within the human race. If this doesn’t immediately strike you as utterly silly- spend some time with this idea. Eventually I hope to puts a big broad smile on your face when you realize that we have invented a whole category of non-existing phenomena by using a pseudo-word (races”).

How Relating is Evaluative

Given that there are no races, only a singular human race, then the rest of the assumptions fall apart as well. For “racism” means “treating, relating, thinking, talking, acting, etc. to someone in terms of what one evaluates about his or her race.” The -ism here someone treating or relating to another person according to his evaluations about the other person’s so-called “race?” Here’s how incredibly crazy we become- we first invent an entirely false concept (race) and then treat some family groups superior and others Then we think that a mysterious force, “racism,” is the problem and so we try to cure it!

In the end, “racism” is an attitude that a person hold about others. A person views people as superior or inferior due solely to the criteria of family of origin or ethnicity. It is the childish game, “My family is better than yours!” “Racism” is an attitude that a person takes in reference to another person. Then generalizing that attitude, he can feel superior to a whole groups of people.

What is racism?

It a way of thinking that leads to a way of acting. And it can lead to people taking advantage of a position so they create policies that incorporate prejudice against others. When some people do that, it does not mean that the whole society is “racist.” It means that a prejudiced or racist person or people did that. To apply it to everyone is a misguided over-generalization. But some do that to create a gigantic monster to rail against. Now you can be prejudiced against everyone who disagrees with you and call them racist. Those who think the a whole society suffers from systemic racism” are usually blind to their own racism. But they feel self-righteous so its hard for them to see their own projections.

This leads to the conversation that we then cannot have. Why? Because it is not on equal ground as colleagues. After all one side thinks of themselves not only as right, but absolutely right and above prejudice, while the other side are told that they are racist, blind, and unaware of their racism.

“If you say you are not racist, you are even more blind to the systemic racism of your culture than I thought. That means your racism is out-of-control and Im wasting my time talking to you.”

Therefore irony is that such a statement is as prejudicial as the prejudice the person is objecting to! And it will never be changed that way. The change has to occur in each and every person who thinks in prejudiced ways. The change will be a change in understanding, beliefs, and attitudes. Change at that level will inevitably lead to change in any expression that favors one person over another due to family origin.

What has happened in the US

True enough, racism used to be incorporated in the laws of the US. But almost all of that has changed since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
That was the great contribution of the movement that Martin Luther King Jr. led. Are there still some individuals who harbor hateful attitudes toward others of this or that group? Sure. Are they the majority? No. The 2008 and 2012 showed that. If those elections demonstrated anything, it demonstrated that the US is not a racist society. How could the majority elect (two times) an African American as President if it was, across the board, racist? That’s too vast an over-generalization in spite of today’s media.

Having a difficult conversation, as the term suggests, is difficult. And all of us have times that we need to have that kind of conversation with others. It requires an open and listening state, a state for seeking first to understand and then to be understood. We require empathy and clarity.
It requires trying on another’s thought rather than rejecting it outright.
In other words, it requires focused learning of refined skills. That’s why we begin with the NLP Communication Model and add the higher level skills of the Meta-States Model.

If you are interested to learn these world class communication models, join us for Coaching Essentials

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