Think back to a time when you were having a conversation with someone where you were each recalling the specifics of an event you witnessed. Did you find that the person’s memory differed to your own?

Out of 10 eye witnesses to a car crash, all ten people will have a different recall of the events they witnessed. In fact, it is impossible for two people to experience the same event in exactly the same way.

The NLP Communication Model answers why this occurs.

When you experience an event, you see, hear, feel, smell and in some instances taste the experience. You will also have thoughts running through your mind simultaneously. In fact, while the precise number isn’t known, it is thought that we receive in excess of 11 million bits per second of information through these senses. A second!

To process this amount of information the brain needs help so these senses are then automatically filtered by a subset of conditions in our unconscious mind.

Meta Programs

The first filter is how our mind has been programmed to act based on the collection of all prior experiences. We create strategies for everything we do, which in turn becomes a program that plays automatically when faced with similar experiences.


The second filter are our values, those things we hold as important to us. They are how we assess whether something is good or bad, right or wrong and generally how we feel about something.


The third filter, beliefs, are assumptions on the way things are in our life. Beliefs are comprised of what we’ve been taught is true, even though it might be different to what another person thinks is true. Beliefs are started in our childhood from influences of family, friends, community, religion, schooling and as we age by pop culture, society and influential people or media. One of the most important things to know about our beliefs is that they may not be true.


Memories, the fourth filter, are events stored in our unconscious mind. From the moment we’re born our mind collects and stores these events. We may not be able to consciously retrieve all of them, but the events themselves may be significant because of the emotions we experienced during them. These emotions build up over time to create meta-programs for how we will respond when faced with similar circumstances.


From the events we experience from childhood we make decisions for what we’re going to believe, how we’re going to think, feel, or behave and therefore the programming we’re going to run in certain circumstances. It is possible that we have made a decision as a child about our capability that limits our potential, known as a limiting decision. Decisions lead us to believe something about the way our world works, and like Beliefs, it’s important to remember that they may not be true.

As they run through these filters, your unconscious mind will delete, distort or generalise the information. You’ll be left with the information categorised unconsciously into about 7+/- “chunks of information”. A chunk is a category that helps our brain to process. For example, without pausing, saying ‘um’ or ‘ah’, list out loud seven models of car. The second you pause is when you’ve hit the limit of the chunk of information your brain can process in that moment.

This chunking is happening instantly all day every day. When we delete information our unconscious mind has made a decision that some of the information isn’t required, so it literally deletes it. When we distort information we are unconsciously misrepresent reality. Consider when you’ve seen a snake on the path only to realise it was a stick, that’s distortion. Generalisation is similar to how stereotypes are created. We take one or two experiences of something and we lump all similar instances to be the same thing. For example, I personally do not like Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate. I could make a generalisation that I do not like all dairy milk chocolate.

How to Use the NLP Communication Model

One of the primary beliefs in NLP is that the map is not the territory. This means that what we say, see, hear, smell, taste or think is only one map, one path, one point-of-view to a certain event or set of circumstances. The event, that is, the territory, is going to be different for everyone. Every single time.

Naturally, when you’re going about your business, it’s going to be super difficult to be conscious of this as well as simply being present. I’ve learned that hindsight works to change and strengthen your filters so that next time you are able to behave differently. Remember, your actions are a product of programming so you need to first create awareness before you can make changes.

One of the most powerful things you can do in utilising the NLP Communication Model is to first ask yourself, how have other people perceived this experience? Have I got all the information in order to make a conscious, deliberate decision? What am I missing? What could I have done differently? Perspective is key. Feedback is crucial.

Knowing this model exists gives you a tool for how to communicate more effectively and a way to strengthen your emotional and social intelligence.

Share your reflection in a comment below to positively impact others with your experience.

Your EQL Coach,