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Is it really just the way we look at things?

So often in business you can speak to different people in the same organisation who have very different experiences of what it is like to work there. It is also widespread for people to leave a meeting and have a different view on how it went. This can often be the cause of debate or conflict on how an internal or client meeting resulted. It isn’t only in our business life that this happens either. It is also a regularly discussed on radio phone- ins after a football match where many fans have different views on ‘how the game went’. This is not necessarily a problem, as differing opinions often help raise the bar in a business context (when applied positively). But it poses the question, why is this the case? If two people watch or attend the same meeting, why do they have such differing experiences / views of the event?

One of our directors recently attended Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) training and brought us back some theories. There are three main filters that are demonstrated in the NLP communication model (shown below) – these are delete, distortion and generaliseation. Our mind can only process a certain amount of information, whilst at any one moment we have thousands of pieces of information available to us. Trying to process everything at once would create cognitive overload. So, our mind automatically applies these three filters to prevent this information overload. The result in this is that two people sitting together at the same meeting will naturally filter different elements. Perhaps it was something as simple as the change in body language of a client, or a comment they made about pricing – but these pieces of information will invariably pass through one of these three filters.


During his explanation he suggested we imagine pieces of information are ping pong balls falling from the sky – everyone can catch the ping pong balls however everyone will catch different ones – or different pieces of information. This is why meeting debriefs are essential, to ensure everyone caught the same points. The key is bringing them all together and respectfully listening to differing opinions on how the meeting went.