Perceptual filters in NLP: how they distort your reality

perceptual filters NLP

Within the NLP communication model, there are various perceptual filters to process the excess of information that we receive on a daily basis into manageable pieces. These filters ensure that only the information that’s relevant to us reaches our rational brain.

The perceptual filters within NLP

Perceptual filters, also known as perception filters, are the filters we apply to filter incoming information’s relevance. With this, we can consciously exclude, distort or generalize certain information, depending on whether we find it relevant or irrelevant or if we need it to substantiate an argument.

Deletions/deletion – we use this perceptual filter to pay attention to what comes in through our sensory perceptions. We consciously filter out everything we consider irrelevant to have “room” to selectively focus on the rest that we find relevant. In other words, we focus on what seems most important to us at any given time, and we remove the rest.

Distortion – Distortion is another perceptual filter that often works on an unconscious level, and often meta-programs underlie this filter. We distort our perceptions in such a way that we are not “hindered” by them. When the information comes in, we change the representation of things so that they do not cause us pain, for example, or, for example, to protect us from sadness.

Distortion, as well as other perceptual filters, are a mechanism that often serves to protect ourselves. By distorting things, we often get/keep a good feeling about ourselves, even though we may have done something wrong ourselves.

An example: Bill has an introductory meeting for a side job at his neighbor’s company. The conversation with the manager goes well, and they laugh a lot. While he drives home, Bill believes that his job is all right, while he actually knows the conversation itself was not going that well.

He warps reality to make himself feel more positive and feel confident that he’s the man for the job. Distortion has to do with self-protection but can also have negative consequences for ourselves.

Just think of a grumpy look from your colleague when he passes you. You interpret this look as if he focused on you and your head starts reasoning. What did I do wrong? When you finally decide to ask what’s going on, your coworker indicates that it has nothing to do with you but with the fact that he didn’t get his contract extension.

Generalization – is the process of making a general conclusion based on just one or a few experiences. “I’ve seen that a few times before, so it probably will be the same now…”. We all know that we apply these generalizations in our daily life. This perceptual filter can bring us advantages but also disadvantages.

Example: As a child, your father always said that you had not learned well enough for your tests. He has repeated this so many times that you have come to believe in it. Even as an adult, you are convinced that you will never pass exams, so you don’t even start.

The perceptual filters play an important role within the NLP communication model. By being aware of the perceptual filters we consciously or unconsciously apply in our daily communication, we can better perceive reality, but it also creates a degree of awareness, allowing us to see how often we mislead ourselves and hide behind them perceptual filters.

While filters can bring us many benefits, they can also work against us. When working with perceptual filters in NLP, it’s a matter of being aware of them. When we are aware of the filters’ existence and functioning, we may or may not use them in our communication with other people. We can also better recognize filters in others and thus better understand their ‘train of thought’. This means that this NLP technique can also be used well in modeling, and you can find out how your model sees the world around him/her.

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