Coaching, NLP, Self Help | 29 September 2021

The Map is Not the Territory

We often assume things about other people to be true.  We create this from our map of the world based on our personal beliefs, experiences, values.  In NLP we have a presupposition which is “the Map is Not the Territory”.

Think about a map.  It is a series of lines, symbols and words that help us to frame a concept about the area it is displaying.  Some maps will give you a significant landmark – a park, or a body of water.  What the map doesn’t show you is the detail within the area.  The colour of the houses, the gardens, the shop fronts, the smell of the bakery, the taste of the baking.  It is simply a representation.  The territory is what you experience by being there.

The map is the perception – the territory is the reality

People do this.  We make assumptions from what we know or what we assume to be true -from our interpretation– our map of our personal world.  Life, if not a fact, is a subjective experience.  Our personal experiences of life to this point impact our assumptions and for each and every one of us these experiences are unique.  No two lives are exactly the same.  There are similarities, but they are not the same.

We each perceive the world uniquely and subjectively.                                                                             

People give events, outcomes, experiences meaning.  We do not like ‘gaps’ in our subjective information so we create stories to fill the gap or give the experience meaning.  Unconscious thoughts can take over and create reasoning.

Map is not the territory

These reasonings have variables too.  Our emotional state at the time, our personal beliefs about our self or the other person, time of day and energetic state can impact.   For example, if we send someone a message and they do not respond we might give that a ‘story’.  A self-limiting belief might create a view that this is evidence that this person does not like me.  Someone else might take the non-response as ‘they are busy’ or ‘can’t have got the message.’  Being an introvert, I sometimes don’t respond immediately because I just don’t have that social capacity at that point in time. People really are unique.

Learn to be curious

The map is not the territory reminds us to be curious about a situation or what we are noting whether external or internal.  It tells us to stop and think about what we are noticing and what we are not noticing.

If someone responds in a way you are not expecting perhaps just take some time to wonder what is going on in their life to create that response rather than stand in judgement of the response.

More importantly, explore your own responses, self-talk and feelings to what you are experiencing.  How is this behaviour serving you – or not serving you?

Our personal self-awareness helps us to be more self-aware for others.

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