OK, let’s get this straight up front – I won’t be talking about ice cream. Well I may talk about ice cream, a real Scandinavian addiction (terrible generalization I know, but it is weird when you consider they live up here in the frozen north?!), and I might talk about food or desserts in general, or specifically mention a luscious banana ice cream with added chocolatey chunks and walnuts, but I’m not really going to be talking about ice cream. Well, I guess I am going to talk about ice cream, and I’m not. Confused? Yeah, me too.
Have you ever wondered why, when you tell a great story or you make a fantastic presentation, one person can sit totally transfixed by your message and another person sitting next to them can be bored to death? Do you sometimes feel like you’re speaking another language? In “How to Measure a Personality?” I introduced Meta Programs – the conversational personality profile that you can use to learn about a person’s model of the world and how they process information. One of the reasons you may, or may not, be connecting with people in your audience, or with almost anyone you communicate with, is related to whether they prefer the big picture and helicopter view or love details and specifics – in Meta Programs that’s called the Chunk Size Filter.
This filter is all about how a person best receives and incorporates information – so it’s really useful to know when it comes to communication, training and almost any situation where you want to get a message across to someone.
Let’s just talk about “chunking” – chunking is about moving from abstract to detail and vice versa. If we chunk up from ice cream, we could ask “what is this an example of?” and you could say frozen desserts, i.e. a category that encompasses not only ice cream, but also similar things. So we move towards a bigger picture and use more abstract words. Chunk up from frozen desserts to desserts in general and up from desserts to food… See where I’m going?
If we go the other way then we chunk down from ice cream to more details and specifics. Ask yourself “what are examples of this?” – you may say banana ice cream, and then chunk down again to perhaps banana with chocolate chip ice cream, banana with cream, banana and walnuts etc, i.e. types of banana ice cream. Or we could go into the constituent parts of ice cream with bananas, cream, vanilla etc. Get the idea?
So how do you find out if someone is predominantly big picture (also known as ‘global’) or prefers details (also known as ‘specific’)? Most people will want to start with one and move to the other, so it’s important to understand which they prefer to receive first – big picture or details – to ensure you get the proper sequence. Here’s a simple question you can ask and adapt for your own situation: “If we were going to do a project together, would you want to know the big picture first, or the details first?” If they answer ‘big picture’ then ask “Would you really want to know the details?” And if they said ‘details’ to answer the first question then swap it around and put ‘big picture’ in there.
A ‘specific’ person will want small chunks and details, and only details. They’ll want to know every detail of an assignment, how to begin and what to do in each step. Be careful, they may miss the overall goal. If they are ‘specific to global’ then they’ll want to have the details first and then the big picture – they’ll build big picture from the details you give them first. Chunk too big for a specific person and they’ll think you’re being fluffy, vague and irrelevant.
A ‘global’ person will want big chunks and only the big picture. They’ll want the helicopter view and little else. They’re unconcerned with details or they’ll fill them in themselves. They’ll concentrate on overall direction of assignment and will be good at understanding any context and pattern. Be careful, they may miss important details and have problems following through in step by step processes. If they’re ‘global to specific’ they probably won’t be able to can’t grasp the details until they have the big picture. Chunk too small for a global person and they’ll say you’re lost in all the details and get bored.
So next time you need to get a message across to someone, perhaps you could ask a question or two first to find out if they prefer that helicopter view of all desserts or if they specifically prefer good old Chunky Monkey….
© Jacqui Gatehouse and NLP THIRTEEN, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jacqui Gatehouse and NLP THIRTEEN with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.