Learning Technologies Newsletter

ISSUE 31 - January 2008 - by Phil Chambers


TIME TO READ: 5 minutes (Average Reader), less than a minute (Speed Reader) - Word Count: 1,172. To learn more about Speed Reading Contact us.

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Welcome to the January issue of the Learning Technologies Newsletter, Please continue to forward it to friends and colleagues who you think would find it useful.

This month we have news of a major new documentary plus our regular Mind Map tip and quote of the month. The main article is on how language can restrict your view of the world and what you can do about it.


Recommended Viewing

If you live in the UK make sure you watch Channel Five Television at 8pm on January 10th . This is an hour long documentary called "The Mentalists" filmed at the UK, German and World Memory Championships. It is described as follows...

Documentary following accountant Ben Pridmore in his bid to become the World Memory Champion. The film follows Pridmore on a journey from the UK to Germany and Bahrain to compete against 'warriors of the mind' from three continents. Along the way, he encounters an array of eccentric characters, including a blue-blooded Austrian Count, 'mind guru' Tony Buzan, and a latter-day Renaissance man who lists 'inventing a new colour' as one of his works.

Mind Mapping Tip of the Month

Leave sufficient space between sets of branches - This is what five times World Mind Mapping Champion, Elaine Colliar calls the 'Feng Shui of Mind Mapping'. Tony Buzan says, "Taken to its logical conclusion, the space between items can be as important as the items themselves".

For more tips see '101 Top Tips for Better Mind Maps'


January's Quote of the Month


"We should have a great fewer
disputes in the world
if words were taken for what they are,
the signs of our ideas only,
and not for things themselves."

- John Locke

(English Philosopher 1632 - 1704)

Have You Met A Model?

This month I thought I would talk about how the language that you use influences your view of the world. This is what is known as the Meta Model in NLP jargon. (By the way, NLP stands for Neuro-Linguistic Programming - The study of how language affects the mind and hence behaviour). I used to work in the IT industry, an area with so much impenetrable jargon that it is almost a different language. NLP is even worse! I will explain words as I go and try not to baffle you with unnecessary terminology. A lot of NLP was developed from a therapy perspective. Although it is relevant to learning, communication and relationships in business and life, many of the best examples are from a therapy context.

We often take shortcuts when we speak that contain implicit beliefs or woolly thinking. These are not always helpful beliefs and can become habits restricting your view of the world if not recognised and challenged. They fall into three main categories:

Deletions - Statements with missing information.

Distortions - Statements that make unfounded connections or assumptions.

Generalisations - making sweeping statements without justification.

I'll give some examples of each in turn, delve a bit deeper into the different instances where these can occur and suggest challenges that a therapist may use.


Simple deletion: For example, "I can't cope" - With what? With whom?

Comparative deletion: Making comparisons without being specific. For example, "He's better at x" - compared to who? compared to what?  

Referential index deletion (Jargon alert! - All this means is that a person, place or thing in the sentence is not specified). For example, "Things get me down" - What things?, "This is easy to learn" - What exactly?

Unspecified verbs - For example " He hurt me" - How? Where? When?, "I can deal with it" - How specifically?


Certain words are used as abstract nouns but represent activity and processes. 'love' - loving , 'thought' - thinking, 'anger' - being angry, 'sight' - seeing, etc. For example someone could say, "She needs more strength" - In what way does she need to be strong?

There are also a range of false connections. For example, "He doesn't love me any more because he doesn't bring me flowers".   The association between love and flowers has been made in recipient's mind but not in the giver.

You can shift responsibility by not specifying who or what is performing an action. If you're not responsible and accountable then you can feel justified in taking or not taking a particular action. For example, "It is felt we should go with the lower bid" - felt by whom?

Avoid making assumptions that would require you to be a mind reader to know. For example, "You know what I'm trying to say" or "I know what's best for you" - How do you know?


One of the most common generalisation is to make a statement that encompasses everything without justification. Using words like 'always', 'all', 'never', etc. If you or someone else says 'never' think "has there ever been?", do you really mean "all" when you say "all men are b***ards"?

Beware of words like can/can't, must/mustn't, etc. Who says? What if you could?

Presuppositions are often used subconsciously to force a particular action posed in a question. A Trivial example: "Would you like milk or cream in your coffee?" assumes that you are having a coffee and that you don't want it black. More subtle, "If you understood, you wouldn't talk that way" - assumes that a lack or understanding - Tell me what to understand.

A person, place or object can be introduced into a statement without being specified. For example "people say ..." - Which people, who? or "everybody does it" - Who specifically does what?

Think about the things that you and your friends say. Are you basing your decisions on evidence or taking shortcuts that restrict yourself and others? Every time you close off an avenue of thought with your language you are limiting your choices. The more choices you have, the more successful you are in coping with change and achieving your goals.    

Skilled practitioners can deliberately introduce deletions, distortions and generalisations to steer you down a particular course. For example persuading you to buy a product. But that's a story for another time!

If you want to learn more about NLP, I will be running a series of practical introductory workshops in Shrewsbury, England with a colleague in February and March. We aim to record these and make them available online. Please contact me if you'd like more details.

The Mind Map Below summarises the Meta Model...

PS We are running a course on Mind Mapping, Speed Reading, Memory and Study Skills in London, England on 9-10 February. If you are interested in attending click here.

That's all for this month.

Wishing you a fantastic 2008

Please contact me if you have any comments or questions

Best Wishes