The NLP Communication Model in Relationships

I always believed that I was an articulate and resourceful communicator, and it wasn’t until the last few years that I realised I had been fundamentally missing the point. It actually doesn’t matter how articulate you are, or how clear your intentions, because the measure of effective communication is whether the message is received. The NLP Communication model has provided me with a framework to understand how to motivate, communicate, and connect with others, and it has helped me to take my own relationship to the next level, by giving me a map for communicating with and understanding myself and my partner.


Imagine that in every second you are receiving 2 million bytes of information from the external world. You receive that information through your five senses, taste, smell,  touch, sight, sound.

Let’s put that in perspective – Hold out your right hand, and imagine that I am handing you one piece of lego per second… now imagine that I am handing you 2 million pieces per second. Too much, yes? Well your brain feels the same way! According to Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Czikszentmihaly in his book Flow -our brain is capable of managing 134 bytes per second. So of those 2 million pieces of lego, we only have conscious awareness of 134.

So how do we decide which ones to keep?

In order to bring our awareness to the important lego, our brain applies a series of filters, or cognitive mechanisms, to identify which bytes we use as the building blocks for our internal lego kingdom. All the other lego is filtered OUT, by deleting, distorting, and generalizing information according to the settings of those filters.

Deletion occurs when we selectively pay attention to certain aspects of our experience, and ignore others. For example in this moment you may not have noticed the temperature in the room, or the sensation of your feet on the floor, or the sound of the traffic. Those bytes of lego are deleted as your brain prioritises amazing and magical lego -like the words & concepts in this article.

Distortion occurs when we transform or interpret lego bytes in some way before we incorporate them into our internal lego kingdom. I was in my early thirties before I realised that Tom Petty wasn’t singing “I Walk back down” .  Totally changed the meaning of that song, because my internal lego world had to change as a result of discovering that distortion.

Generalisation occurs when we take one byte, or a cluster of bytes of lego, and create a rule that we apply to many other events. An example would be the time I trod on that blue piece of lego – I generalized, and now I believe that all blue lego hurts. Blue lego is spikier than the other colours. Sometimes I see other people with cool blue lego, but I know that wouldn’t work for me.

These three mechanisms are constantly working together to help you to make sense of the things that happen around you. The DDGs are powered by the filters that decide which lego makes it through. In turn, the filters are strengthened by the DDGs – the more blue lego I tread on, the more I delete cool lego, distort blue lego as hurtful and am convinced I will never find true blue lego.

So what are the filters? The kinds of things that filter our lego bytes are  language ( the specific words, or patterns of grammar that we use), memories from our lived experience and education, decisions we have made, both in our past and in our present , the values  and beliefs that we have as a result of those,  and our metaprograms – unconscious filters to our perception that help us to sort the lego bytes

What that means is that at any moment, we are only experiencing our own internal lego kingdom, which is built from a tiny number of the available blocks, and is only ever a limited replica of the true external experience. That explains why two people can remember and interpret the exact same event in a completely different way.

We have created most of our own filters between the time that we are born  and the age of 7, During that time our parents teach us about the way that they have built their own lego kingdoms, and we learn to build our own kingdoms from their blueprint.

As the lego moves through the filters, our brains make sense of it by grouping the bytes into categories, or chunks. Now the sorters in our lego kingdom can only concentrate on 7 categories or chunks at a time. Well, its 7 plus or minus two (some kingdoms have sorters that can manage 9 chunks, some can only manage 5). They group the 134 bytes of lego into those 7 chunks, which we then use to build our current picture of the world. We gaze on our internal kingdom,  which leads to a feeling, then a change in our physiology (our bodies), and finally -leads to our actions and behaviour. This is the reason that you must separate actions from intentions. It is the Internal Kingdom that governs the behaviour.

So how does this apply to our world? Think back to when you learned to drive.

The sorters had seven chunks which they allocated to: Using the accelerator, watching the road, indicating at corners, remembering your destination, using the brakes, steering the car, and using the clutch.

This was new for them, and required all their awareness to notice the right lego bytes as they received them.  Now imagine it starts to rain, suddenly there is one more category of legos to sort for, which takes you to 8, and suddenly you start to miss some of the important bytes you were already looking for.

As the sorters gained familiarity with this type of experience , they began to combine categories (or chunks) and become more efficient. So accelerator, plus brake, plus clutch became one chunk allocated to “the speed of car” and no longer required individual awareness for each element. Now you can receive more lego bytes and add complexity & understanding to your internal kingdom for the activity of “driving”. That means after many years of driving you are able to simultaneously steer, navigate, keep position, maintain spatial awareness,  sing, drink coffee, and give a running commentary on other drivers.

And now we arrive at the power of the NLP communication model – this understanding of the way you are creating your internal world unlocks your ability to CHOOSE the filters that you want to use, and to UNDERSTAND the way that your partner builds their internal world. And that, is the key to externally actualising your kingdom.

What that means is, that you are in charge

Sometimes we inherit or learn filters that stop us from getting the quality of building blocks for the world we want to build. Your experience of the world is limited by accepting filters based on the language, memories, decisions, values, and metaprograms from someone else’s life. That means that you end up building a kingdom that is fundamentally the same as theirs.

So what does that mean for your relationship? You must understand that your shared Kingdom is built in exactly the same way that you build your own, only the scale is magnified.

In this series I will unpack each of the filters and talk about how to identify and choose building blocks that support you to create the Kingdom that you dream of.

I will look at the language, decisions, values, memories, and metaprograms for success in love and life, and discuss the way to appropriately manage those that are currently sabotaging your results.