We all have natural filtering systems that affect what we pay attention to. We have these because it would be impossible for us to pay attention to absolutely everything around us: our unconscious mind automatically homes in on what is important to us. But when our filters are set differently to someone else’s we can find them difficult to relate to – or even think that they are being ‘difficult’.
Lots of things that people say relate to their own filters, and those of other people:
Each one of these quotes conceals a hidden pattern or habit that, if we knew how to recognise it would:
- significantly reduce the frustration or irritation we might otherwise feel and,
- give us a way to improve the overall quality of the interaction with that person.
These filters influence what we pay attention to – and what we ignore. Like the sound filters in a music studio, most of them can be thought of as positioned on a continuum from an extreme at one end through to an extreme at the other – or somewhere in between
The filters are deeply embedded and usually well outside of our conscious awareness until our attention is drawn to them. Once recognised, however, they can provide us with an easy, effective way to improve the quality of any conversation and enhance the impact of any proposal or report we might prepare.
Familiarity with these patterns will enable us to …
- recognise why we relate to some people more easily than others;
- increase rapport and influence through matching the other person’s preferred style;
- understand why someone’s view of the world seems, at best, ‘odd’ to us;
- enhance the effectiveness of proposal and report writing by appealing to all styles.
Filters (which are called “‘Meta Programs” in NLP), affect us in two significant ways:
- They are unconscious internal processes that automatically determine what we pay attention to, and what we ignore.
- They also direct our thinking: our filters effectively manage, guide and direct our mental processes – the way we think about things.
Every one of the filters is important in maximising the impact and overall effectiveness of our communications – particularly in a coaching situation.
We will explore some of the more useful filters in the following pages:
- Chunk size filter Indicates a preference for either conceptual information at one end of the scale - or detailed information at the other.
- Similarity or Difference filter How we make meaning of relationships between things - it is sometimes called 'Sameness and Difference' or 'Match/mismatch'.
- Internal/External filter Sometimes called the 'Frame of Reference' filter, it is particularly important in the giving and receiving of feedback.
- Time filter Another indicator of how we make meaning of the world and, most importantly, how we respond to changes.
- Senses filter Which of our senses (taste, feeling, sound, smell, sight) we prefer to use for receiving, processing and storing information. Sometimes called 'representational systems'.
- Options/Procedures filter The options/procedures filter is important in decision-making.
- Towards/Away-from filter Determines what needs to be in place for us to be motivated.
- In Time or Through Time filter A binary filter that has implications for punctuality and time management.
- Associated/Dissociated filter Another binary filter, relevant for understanding our responses to emotional stimuli.
- Human interaction filter A more systemic filter that describes the way in which human beings communicate with each other within a given context.
- Practical use of filters Tips for learning, and a summary.