Thoughts on NLP Communication Model and Organisational Communications

Thoughts on NLP Communication Model and Organisational Communications

(previously published on LinkedIn October 15, 2017)

This article started as a response to my original post and Margaret Strudwick’s comments to in as below.

To support my business process design and improvement work, I’m revising for my NLP Master Practitioner qualification next year and I’ve taken another look at the NLP communications model.  In a flash of understanding, I see why so much communication in organisations is poor.  Every one distorts, deletes and generalises their view of  situation.  This prevents us seeing the whole picture in the same way and is why eye witness accounts will differ. People see and recall different things.

The original Grinder, Bandler NLP Communications Model.

A simplified model from Time Line Therapy And The Basis Of Personality (Pedagogy for a Changing World) by Tad James and Wyatt Woodsmall

Remember that next time you have your HR appraisal!

Margaret asked: Hi Brian, I am not a qualified NLP practitioner, I have not seen this diagram previously, and it is of interest to me. A couple of thoughts/questions – emotions don’t have a “card” is that because they show up in behaviors; as our “use of talk” would also? And there is no link between the filters in the brain to physiology, where we might hold stress. That would affect our behaviours too. I have been looking at physiology in as much that receptors in our nervous system through free nerve ending routes respond more quickly in signalling our brain than through the sympathetic nervous system. Is NLP developing in understanding this aspect of body response?

This is my response

Hi Margaret, I’m still developing my understanding of NLP, and it’s a big and controversial area. This model was developed by the founders of NLP, Bandler and Grinder and is more information about it here

Our senses perceive millions of bits of information that we can’t pay attention to the same time. For example, you won’t be aware of the weight of your jacket on your shoulders unless you direct your conscious mind to it. That sensory information is there but we delete it from our conscious thoughts.

With distortions, we may fit the facts to what we expect or believe. So if you’re out walking in an area where there are snakes, seeing a piece of twisted rope on the path ahead may cause you to believe that that is a snake.

Generalisations are a way of simplifying decision-making. For examples in general the door handle is on the opposite side to the hinge. In one experiment college students were offered a prize if they could open a door but unknown to them the doors hinges were on the same side as the doorknob, and that’s not generally how doors work! So most of them could not solve the problem.

All data is made sense of by the way we manage this information, how it fits to our values, beliefs, memories and when we received this information etc. Meta programs are we use this information in accordance with our personalities and may includes things like do you prefer big picture detail, do we prefer to work in groups or by our self.

As for physiology, try standing with your shoulders drooping and your head down and try to feel positive. It doesn’t work. Then standing tall, looking the world in the eye breathing deeply through your nose a couple of times and see how different you feel. The difference in how you feel shows how your emotions fit to your physiology. If we think that someone insults us we will typically have a response to that which changes our state or mood and results in a change in our physiology.

So what I’m suggesting, is this model of individual communication can scale up to organisational level where sensory inputs are replaced with things like written reports, conversations, observations and where deletion is what the organisation chooses to ignore while distortion what they misunderstand, and generalisation for instance ‘Fred failed so Fred will fail every time’.

If we think of Sidney Yoshida’s Iceberg of Ignorance study ( we can think of the lower-level employees who see 100% of the issues as being our sensory receptors, and the top management who see only 4% of problems as being the brain of the organisation.

This needs more development but hope it makes sense.


I welcome any comments and additions but will not enter into any arguments about NLP. I’ve done my research and am satisfied that most of makes sense and is of value to business