NLP Presuppositions

The Map is not the Territory in NLP

Our Own Map

The Map is not the Territory is one of the most important NLP Presuppositions that you should know about.

Everyone sees the world differently. We all have our own map of it depending on our upbringing, our attitudes, beliefs, prejudices and individual perceptions at any given time. 

Everything we see and hear is adjusted to fit these experiences.

A map is not the territory it represents but, if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory which accounts for its usefulness . What this means is that our perception of reality is not reality itself but our own version of it or our map

Alfred Korzybski

Achieving rapport

This is one of the highly important NLP Presuppositions that we need to remember particularly when attempting to communicate with others. 

We are more likely to achieve rapport quickly when meeting someone for the first time if we recognise this important truth and work with it. 

It is very easy to believe the other person is being awkward, naïve or just stupid when the only difference between us is our internal map. In other words, the perception of the world each of us has is entirely different. 

NLP presuppositions - different perceptions

Anyone who has many years’ experience of the judicial system, as I have, will know only too well how several people will witness exactly the same incident yet have entirely different versions of what happened, yet are all endeavouring to recount truthfully what happened.

When I prosecuted a criminal case I almost dreaded having too many people who claimed to be eye witnesses to an assault. 

Not only do they all see things from different angles at slightly different times, but they all bring their background and experiences to bear and filter what they see against their internal map.

Our five senses

We process information through our senses: sight; hearing; touch; taste and smell. Then according to our experience and prejudices we delete, distort and generalise

That affects us emotionally. The emotional state affects our physiology: how we think, how we breathe, how we stand, how we feel. All this is brought about by your internal map. 

NLP presuppositions - pictures in the mind

Whatever information is processed in this way creates a picture in our minds. 

The picture you make will affect your mood. Imagine two co-workers about to receive news of their annual bonuses which may or may not be awarded at the employer’s discretion.

Kyle believes he has had an incredibly good year, is far better than his colleagues and is in line for a bonus of £2,000 or more. 

Harry, on the other hand understands that while he is talented he is new to the job, has little experience and thinks if he gets a bonus it will be no more than a £100 or so. 


How do they feel when they are each told they will receive a bonus of £500?

Kyle cannot believe how badly he has been treated, his mood may plummet and he might even consider handing in his notice. 

Harry, however, is absolutely delighted and is already thinking of taking his friends out to celebrate. 

Yet they each received a bonus, exactly the same amount of money, but the fact of that was filtered against their internal map. 

Neither was actually entitled to a bonus. One was grateful and the other was not.

Understanding and Negotiating

So if you wish to get on with somebody or have to negotiate, your time is well spent if you use some of it to understand them and their perception of the world. 

If you can get an insight into their map, see things through their eyes, hear things through their ears, you are on your way to getting their confidence and achieving the result you desire.

Learning NLP Presuppositions can change everything

The pictures you make in your mind will affect the way you feel and the way you react to others. But you can change all that with NLP. NLP teaches how to change those pictures and at the same time change your feelings and physiology for the better.

Read more about NLP techniques for developing your senses.

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