How are you filtering your experience?


One of the core principles of NLP is the idea that we view the world through a range of filters. repsystem

The thing is that there is just so much information in our day to day experience that it is impossible to take it all in. The human brain is only consciously able to process around 7 pieces of information simultaneously. It stands to reason that we are subject to a great deal more than this every minute of every day.

For instance if you are sitting in a coffee shop talking to a friend you are listening to her words, looking at the expressions on her face, thinking about what she is saying, or about what you are going to say next. You may be aware of the taste of your coffee and a general awareness of people around you. You cannot possibly, in the same moment, also be conscious of the feel of the chair on your legs, the words of the music that is playing, the colour of that lady’s handbag or the words on the sign in the window. You could choose to focus on some or all of these things but until you bring it to your conscious awareness you will have filtered all this extraneous information out as irrelevant to what is your current focus.

The thing is that while we can choose to focus on anything, a great deal of the time we have a preference for certain ways of filtering information. One set of these filters is based on our sensory preferences – our ‘representational system We may tend to focus on the way a thing looks, or the way it sounds, or the feel of it or we may be very analytical and consider its features and its value.

Knowing how people filter their experience is a very valuable skill and one which NLP practitioners deliberately cultivate in order to more effectively ‘enter a client’s world’ and understand them.

If I know a client tends to be more visual then I would tend to use techniques that involve visualisation, creating pictures in their imagination. I also might choose my words carefully to focus on visual words such as ‘look’, and ‘see’ and ‘view’.

“I’d like to get your view on this”

“This looks like a good idea”

“I see what you mean.”

By doing this we are more in rapport and it will be easier for us both to understand eachother.

It can be useful too for you to know what your preferred system is, and possibly also the preference of your loved ones. If your husband or partner is kinaesthetic, for example then you know that they set greater store by things such as a loving touch, rather than the words that might mean more to an auditory person.

Many people will use a combination of more than one representational system and some are balanced across the full range – visual, auditory, kinaesthetic and ‘digital’ (analytical and thinking based, rather than sensory).

If you want to try a simple test to find out what your representational preference is then you can try this fun quiz. It’s not as thorough as the tests I use with my clients, but it will give you an idea of how you may work and also show you just how different people can be in the way they experience the world.

Why not give it a try, and get in touch with me if you would like a more thorough analysis.

Robert Sanders is a therapist and life coach, supporting people in their present and helping them create their future.

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