It sneaks into most of my workshops. It pops up in a lot of my conversations. I hear it pretty much every day from someone. Sometimes I even hear it from myself. It’s the use of generalizations. You hear it when you hear words such as everyone, nobody, always, never, all, nothing, etc. Sometimes people use generalizations to exaggerate their point. Sometimes, the person truly believes that everyone takes on a particular trait all the time. Whatever the reason, knowing how to flip generalizations to specifications really helps. Here is what I heard today:
“Don’t you find that all men think like that?”
“Women are more emotional than men.”
“Everyone does it.”
“It’s like that here.”
I don’t like being argumentative and when someone is assaulting me with these types of generalizations, I find I can’t help but sound like an NLP person.
“Do you know any man who doesn’t think like that?”
“I wonder why some people perceive all women to be more emotional then men.”
“I wonder if there’s been a time when someone didn’t do it.”
“How would you know when it was different here?”
Do you remember the sage advice our parents gave us as teenagers? “But Dad, everyone’s doing it!” I would proclaim. “If everyone at school jumped off a bridge, would you?” was the inevitable response. What my father meant to say is that generalizations rarely help communicate meaning. Perhaps had I listened to my father then I would have stopped using generalizations to make a point far sooner.
In NLP we help people understand that our brain naturally generalizes information to organize it and make sense of it. By asking questions like the ones I asked above, I help people recover the lost information from a generalization. By recovering details from the generalization, we open our minds up to the possibility that people are individuals and their behavior can seldom be grouped into a general statement.
So when someone in my NLP Practitioner Certification Course says to me, “Americans are loud,” I ask them to rephrase it to, “I notice a lot of loud people seem to be American.”
“Asians are spatially unaware. ” to “I sometimes notice people running into me a lot in Asia.”
When we become aware of how our brain naturally generalizes information, we can recover it ourselves and make our communication more clear.