Tuesday, May 27, 2008

How Do You Think?

Temple Grandin has autism and has written a thoughtful description of her experience and how she thinks in Thinking In Pictures and Other Reports From My Life With Autism (Vintage Books: 1995) For Grandin, she literally “sees” the world in her brain. She translates sound and touch into visual brain images. She can view her brain images in 3-D which allows her to develop plans in her head before putting them on paper (Grandin designs live stock handling facilities). So, what does this have to do with mediation? The answer relates to how you think, how the participants in mediation think and how you connect with them.

Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder models three representational learning/thinking styles – visual, audio and kinesthetic. Visual people use words like see, picture, look, vista, etc. Audio words are hear, sound, clang, etc. Kinesthetic words are feel, touch, grasp. And there are neutral words like consider, think, sense, and understand. We each have a generally preferred style and while we learn/think in most all modes, we have one that is strongest. (Grandin writes that she is purely visual.) For the visual person, you think in pictures and use visual words. The audio person thinks in sounds and uses sound words. Thus, when you put a visual and an audio person together in mediation, they are constantly translating each others words (and maybe your words) into their own representational system.

You, as mediator can help translate and you can use words to match people. Or you can use all three. In my opening mediation comments, I usually say something like – “We’re going to take a look at this situation, talk about it and then try to wrap it up.” In this sentence I’ve used words in all three styles. Further, when you match learning styles you build rapport as there is no translation needed. You connect with how people think and so you connect with them.

Of course, this is just a tip of the iceberg comment on learning styles and NLP, yet I have found these concepts and tools quite powerful. Next mediation, listen closely to the words used – both yours and the participants. And, if you want to learn more, check out two books - Frogs into Princes by Richard Bandler and John Grinder (this is a transcript of a workshop and very accessible) and I hear what you say, but what are you telling me? The strategic use of nonverbal communication in mediation by Barbara Madonik (this is more technical, but does have some specific mediation related content).

No comments: