As we go through life we begin to build up a set of thought patterns, behaviours and beliefs about how the world works, experiences and values which all contribute to the kind of person we are. This set of patterns is called our map of the world and each of us has a unique one.
The Map Of The World According To Me!
This unique map of the world acts as a kind of filter to sort through the mass of information that comes at us during every moment of every day. Consciously we can only actively process a very small proportion of this information and so we use the map and its filters to sort out what is important and add meaning for us.
Our maps, hopefully, continue to update and evolve throughout our life, but not always. Sometimes we can become stuck and what used to work for us now no longer does, over time this can cause difficulties unless we somehow consciously make some changes or ask for help to update. Changing habits is a good example of how an old pattern can sometimes be tricky to update. What used to work for us in the past, now doesn’t and we want to change it.
In this context what is absolutely key to remember and notice is ….
My map is not your map and the map is only a representation of reality.
Let’s start at the end of that sentence ‘the map is a representation of reality’
In reality, we are bombarded with thousands of bits of information just take a moment and think about that.
Close your eyes and start to use your other senses to discover the world around you.
How many sounds can you hear? External to you and internally?
What is the temperature around you?
How comfortable are you? What do your hands feel like? Where are they placed? How relaxed or tense are they?
As soon as you start to pay attention to the world around you and to the workings and comfort of your own body, you begin to realise just how much information is available to your mind. Something must help with sorting out what is helpful and what is not so helpful just now, hence your map.
You may also notice that you have started to place interpretations on what you are hearing, feeling etc. This is your map in action.
Your map may be frequently correct, that sound is indeed the dog barking next door. Sometimes it may be wrong, for example the barking may actually be somebody’s ring tone.
Therefore your map is not actual reality it is only a representation or interpretation of it.
This is a vital distinction when dealing with others, your map is not their map and it is not reality.
Avoiding assumptions and seeking clarity.
Problems in communication mostly arise when maps are different. We make an assumption based on our map, that what the other person means is also what we mean. Often this is not the case and problems arise.
How do we avoid a misinterpretation of someone else’s map?
Firstly become aware that your map will automatically control your actions and reactions unless you make a decision to become more aware of it, moment by moment and do something different when necessary rather than working on ‘autopilot’ all of the time.
Second, seek clarity by careful questioning to make sure that your understanding is accurate and matches the intent of the other person.
Gentle, open ended questions are an invaluable tool and encourage others to expand their thinking. These are the type of questions that usually start with, how? What? Where? When? What? Who? If asked with a sense of curiosity and interest, this can avoid them sounding too much like an interrogation. Too many closed questions will do just that and will limit the scope of the information you can get back.
For example you are helping out at a charity event and someone asks you to “do the dishes”. To you this means washing up the cups and plates and leaving pots and pans to soak for a while and then allowing them to drain and dry before putting them away.
Compare that idea with this one ….
To the person who asks this means washing all of the plates and cups as well as the pans as well as drying them and putting them away immediately.
Similar interpretations but actually quite different and possibly a source of conflict.
By asking some open ended questions such as:
‘How would you like that done?’
‘What would you like to have happen to the pans?’ reduces the possibility of conflict by seeking to clarify a statement that may have different meanings to different people according to their map of the world.
For more information on improving communication skills please contact Tranceformations Now
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