Values: Decoding The Complexity That Drives Us

Did you notice that each values level has its own language?

Once of the most important things we learn in NLP is to pay attention to the language used. Sadly this is also one of the most hated sections in the training. Why? I really have no idea. Don’t people talk to each other? Don’t they communicate all the time through words? I guess if you don’t know what you don’t know, you think that you communicate all right and ultimately it is all their fault anyway! They don’t understand what you mean, right? You were expressing yourself correctly and they just did not get it! C’mon! Be honest! How many times you ended up frustrated because they misunderstood you? How many times you said to yourself: “Boy, I better be careful what I say or I can get in trouble!”

But maybe it was never about what you said, but about the meaning of the words you used which was interpreted differently by the other person. And don’t get down the path of who was right, because maybe nobody was right or wrong. If for them the meaning assigned to a word is different than yours, they will understand the same word in a different way therefore distorting your intended message.

In NLP this meaning assignment is called complex equivalence (CEq). Now even if you think you know this already – IE you are trained at least at the level of NLP Practitioner or even further, have you actually stopped and thought what are the consequences of complex equivalence? What are the consequences in society and how the thinking of all of us changes according to the meaning of the words we use? How they are related to social engineering? And what is “social engineering” anyway? Have you actually stopped to think of that.

CEq it is related to the meaning we individually assign to words. The interpretation of words which in spite of dictionaries and agreed upon meaning is ultimately unique to the individual.

How do we assign meaning to words? (1) first it is our personal experience. You know what an orange is mostly through your experience of seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and feeling it, however (2)you also read the dictionary definition of the orange and you know that it is according to WordBook English Dictionary:

“[a] round yellow to orange fruit of any of several citrus trees”

In a sense we are lucky we have dictionaries otherwise we would barely be able to understand each other at all especially in the technological era when we have so many abstract and technical words. Forget about the orange example, how do you experience through your five senses the word “peace-keeping”, or “spheres of influence” or ”competitive intelligence”. Did you know that competitive intelligence actually means industrial espionage?

What about Facebook? According to this article millions of people in the world are confused thinking that Facebook is not the internet. They ascribe to the word Facebook a different meaning.

And what about when people say yes and they mean no or vice versa? And what about people say something knowing fully that it would not be socially acceptable to say as it really is?

Maybe the purpose of the dictionary was all along to bring together the meaning of the communication or maybe to bridge the gap between what was said and what was intended? And then the next question is “what was intended by whom specifically?” and “who decides what means what for all of us?”

Now, did you consider that the complex equivalence can be distorted on purpose? It is actually one of the techniques of social engineering. Here is how it is done: you take a word, usually a more abstract word (in NLP called a nominalization), and you substitute new meaning for the same word. All the while a certain “top group” like the stakeholders and the CEO of a corporation retain the true understanding of the words they are using while the rest of the employees have a different understanding of the same word. You can also invent new words for the old meanings and this will be addressed a little later in the article.

But after you’ve done (1) and (2) you end up with two groups of people (a) the wider group, the mass of employees, those who are not “in the know” and a smaller group at the top, those who are “in the know”. Once you’ve set up that, then (3) there is just one more thing: repeat, repeat, repeat the use of the new meaning again and again until it gets drilled in the new way in the consciousness of the people.

With the help of language you can do a lot of things, separate society in diverse groups, antagonize them, manipulate the understanding of concepts, but more about that in Part 2.


Until then, be well

Adriana James

About the Author: Adriana James

Adriana James M.A., Ph.D. is a Certified Master Trainer of Neuro Linguistic Programming, Master Time Line Therapy® Trainer, Hypnosis Trainer and NLPCoaching Trainer. She is the author of the book Time Line Therapy® Made Easy, an introduction to Time Line Therapy® techniques easy to master by everyone. To read more about Adriana go here.