About NLP: The meaning of your communication

In no particular order, it’s time to delve a little deeper into another one of the NLP Presuppositions.

This time it’s number 2

The meaning of your communication is the response you get.

It doesn’t matter what you meant to say, the meaning comes from how the listener hears and responds to it. Which also means that your intentions, good or not, are beside the point.

Wait, what?

Isn’t communication a two-way street? Aren’t both people responsible? Isn’t it a 50/50 deal?


You are 100 percent responsible for getting your meaning across in the way you want it to be understood.

The good news is, if each person takes 100 percent of the responsibility for their communication, you could have as much as 200 percent effort doing into clear communication! And even if the other person, doesn’t know or embrace this concept, and they think they’re just responsible for 50 percent, you still have 150 percent effort in place.

When you embrace this presupposition, you are committing to listening to the response and asking for feedback to clarify your communication.

This creates an opportunity for someone to really get you–for you to be truly understood–which can be difficult with this imprecise language of ours.

But I can’t control anyone’s response!

That’s true, and if you want to convey a particular idea, whether it’s a complicated plan, or your feelings for someone, it’s important for you to communicate in a the other person can hear and understand you.

You can pay attention to how he or she processes information. You can ask for feedback. You can well, let me explain it this way.

Imagine you’re in Italy.

And you want to find a grocery store. You can ask in English, with the intention to find out where the nearest grocery store is, but if the person you’re asking doesn’t speak English, they can’t understand you. It’s not their fault.

What do you do? You adjust your communication.

Perhaps you act out shopping in some way, or see someone with grocery bags and point to them, or know the word in Spanish is supermercado and say that hoping it’s close.

While from the outside, this might seem like inelegant communication. If it gets your meaning across, and the person, gets that light in their eye, “Ah, si!” And points the way, you have in fact effectively communicated.

Use everything at your disposal

Use story and metaphor. Use examples and create a foundation or framework for the information. Learn how the other person likes to hear things and communicate in that way. Pay attention and make subtle or radical adjustments.

Just stop banging your head against the wall and blaming the other person for not understanding you.

What, can’t you take a joke?

One more thought about this concept.

If you intend to be funny, and the listener doesn’t find it funny, or worse is hurt, that’s the meaning of the communication, and the responsibility is with you. You can’t always assess correctly and make the funny joke every time, but you can always be understanding about the other person’s response.

There has been quite a bit of talk recently about what’s acceptable fodder for stand-up comedians and what isn’t. There was a particularly heated incident with a comedian making a rape joke this summer that provoked outrage and defenders and one really illuminating response (beware: the language is coarse and frank!).

Explore the other NLP Presuppositions:

  1. The map is not the territory.
  2. The meaning of your communication is the response you get.
  3. You have all the resources you need to achieve your desired outcomes.
  4. Every behavior is motivated by positive intention. People make the best choices they can with the resources they have available.
  5. You cannot not communicate. Effective communicators accept and utilize all communication presented to them.
  6. All outcomes are achievements, there is no failure, only feedback.
  7. The element in a system that has the most flexibility will be the catalyst of that system.
  8. Respect each person’s model of the world.


1 comment to About NLP: The meaning of your communication

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.