Mind the Gap, NLP and Me

Guest blogger Andrea Myers is a certified master practitioner of NLP and her blog  focuses on mind maps and filters.  Before you dismiss this as “pseudo science with quack factor stats” remember this, we learn, read and write in different ways. If we can increase our readership, or inject credible characterisation from looking at how others think, it has been worth the journey.

‘He searched her eyes with deep emotion – it was the mention of his childhood that brought the flood of memories and finally moved him to act…’

George sighed, “I just do not get this author. I am not on the same wavelength at all I feel I have just wasted my time trying to read this, and what a waste of money!” and with that, he slammed the book shut and tossed it into the bin.


Oh dear, not the reaction we authors want at all! So what went wrong? George and the author were indeed “not on the same wavelength” and the reason is this: Our author used the word “childhood” as a huge emotional turning point to his story – but “childhood” means something different to every one of us. Some of us had an idyllic youth, others a busy hectic time as part of large bustling family, others were very alone, perhaps an only child. So we need to be aware as authors that our language and our use of it is totally coloured by our own, individual map of the world. A world made up of our own very unique experiences and emotions. And when we use key words we need to ensure our readers get onto our wavelength. Try using the phrase “How specifically?” to ask yourself what you mean and ensure your reader has understood. Had our author said “tortured childhood” or “soporific” perhaps our reader would have stayed with him.

NLP or Neurolinguistic Programme is the study of the effect of language (linguistic) on our brain (neuro) patterns, created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the 1970s.They studied how the pathways or filters into our neuro system worked and how the language we use mirrors our own personal world. They created a set of models that can be used to achieve excellence in everyday life: business, education, health, sport as well as psychology.
If you look up “NLP and writing”, you will see that there are dozens and dozens of courses being offered to writers and journalists, using NLP as a foundation. Many scriptwriters use NLP in their work – in particular in TV series and films. This year over 1,200 teachers were trained in NLP and it is also used in education, medicine and in many different aspects of therapy.

At our last Writer’s Workshop I spoke about the two basic tenets of NLP – Our Map of the World and the filters we use to take in information. The example given above with George explains Our Map of the World. Let’s look now at filters.

Bandler and Grinder found that we take in information through 5 basic filters Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, the primary filters, and Gustatory, and Olfactory the secondary filters. What filters we use as our primary ones are very individual. But if you try to communicate with someone without using their primary filter – you may again find “we are not on the same wavelength”.

You have only to ask a group of people who have just come out of a film what they liked about the film – and some will say the photography was fabulous (Visual) some will have noticed the musical score (Auditory) and some will have said the film made them feel great (Kinesthetic) And we cannot help using the words that actually give away what filters most influence us. For example, at a meeting, if something is decided, and the individuals are asked for their understanding, some will say, “I hear what you say” others will say, “I see what you mean” and others, “feels good to me”.

Returning to our reader, George, he gave us a clue as to his primary filter with his words “I feel I have wasted my time” He may well be a kinesthetic. If a writer totally ignores his kinesthetic readers, this could well be the outcome. If you try to sell a car to a kinesthetic and you focus on the visual qualities – you might not get a sale! Mention the comfort of the seats, the smooth ride, the heated seats and fabulous climate control and the sale could be yours.
I found another very interesting aspect to the VAK filters – I am a Visual, and I found to my surprise that my writing was lacking the visual aspect – too much dialogue and not enough scene setting. The reason must be that as a visual I just assumed everyone would be able to create the scene in their minds and didn’t need me to describe things. Not so! When I reversed things, and “told less and showed more” I got a far better response.

How can we use this information for us as writers? My suggestions are:
When you are doing your first edit of your writing identify the key words or turning points in your writing – and ask yourself, “What specifically do I mean by this word or phrase?” Remind yourself that your map of the world is unique to you and that to engage your reader you need to expand or illustrate your meaning.

Again, at your first edit stage ask yourself what is your writing style? – Have you engaged the Visual Auditory or Kinesthetic filters in your overall approach? Is there a balance?

I have only skimmed the surface of NLP and its practices and philosophies – but I close with one of the ten basic tenets of NLP:

‘The meaning of your communication is the response that you get, which may be different to the one you intended. There is no such thing as a resistant person, only an inflexible communicator.”

Andrea Myers


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