When my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2006, it became clearer to me through the years that followed how amazing our minds are. While it was frustrating to listen to the same comment over and over again, I realised that it was because he was playing out good memories in his mind. I had to listen to stories of his student days at Kirkby over and over again, but now that he has passed away, I kind of miss listening to those stories.

Unfortunately, the computer memory in my dad’s brain was reduced over time to only important memories and experiences, and in his later years, he even forgot how to speak and communicate. Knowing that only certain memories triggered an emotion, we would try our best to play music that will jog his memory so he’ll feel happy. We also showed him photo albums so he could recall incidents and people. One particular album he was especially fond of was our wedding album, and that made him smile over and over again.

Our lives are the sum of our experiences, environment, upbringing, background and more. We associate things, smells, sights and sounds with memories and our brain processes all the information we receive so quickly. The way we see the world is really through our own tinted glasses, and that is how we perceive life to be. But truly, there’s too much information to process in any given day. For my dad with a condition like Alzheimer’s, everything confused him, and he wasn’t able to process his thoughts properly, which led to a lot of frustration.

“My parents in 2010, a photo shoot to remember good times”

Our brains filter every thought that comes through and goes through this process of deletion, distortion and generalization (Described as “The three universals of human modeling” by Bandler and Grinder, the Founders of NLP). The way we speak reflects the world view that we have as a process of these 3 steps. So what do these filters do, exactly?

In 2006, the same year my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I married the man of my dreams. That year was a really challenging year for me. For many years, I considered myself as a ‘forgetful’ person, and that was a source of many arguments. Now I realise that it was my brain’s way of filtering information to remove unnecessary ‘clutter’. I deleted information that was not important to me. For example, remembering that the water heater switch needed to be turned off after every shower. It was unimportant to me, and I couldn’t understand for the life of me why that was so important to Alex.

This argument led to a generalised view… I felt angry and told myself, “Why does he have to be right all the time!?” Then the distortion filter kicked in, “I am a terrible wife because I can’t even remember such a simple thing.” The one thing he told me over and over again, “You can train your mind to rewire.” Needless to say, I got through all my insecurities, pride and anger eventually. Oh, and I paid attention to that detail ever since then for the past 14 years.

Communication Styles – VAKAD

Once our thoughts are filtered, it comes out as communication through body language, tone of voice and words. But each person is unique, and we have preferences on how we communicate, namely Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic and Auditory Digital. As a coach, we have to be mindful of the words spoken because it gives us insight into what the coachee is actually communicating and how they have filtered every experience in their mind.

Visual people say phrases like, “Seeing is believing, I can’t see the big picture, imagine…” Obviously images, diagrams, appearances and other visual cues are important to them.

Auditory people say phrases such as “That sounds right, I hear what you are saying, I am all ears…” They listen and pay attention by leaning in with their ear.

Kinesthetic people (like me!) like to communicate through feelings, movement, physical touch and action words. They say phrases like “That feels right, I have an instinct to do this, let’s get going…”

Finally, Auditory Digital people communicate with phrases like “Step by step, one thing at a time, what steps do we need to take?” They process things in their brain in a logical and orderly fashion and like to break things down to smaller, more manageable steps.

As a coach, we have to be aware of our coachee’s communication style so that we can adapt to their preference. For example, if someone is a visual person, we can do visualization exercises to help them picture an outcome. When it comes to filters, we should challenge those thoughts by asking questions that will create awareness that they have placed filters on a particular experience.

I end this post with a quote by Charles R. Swindoll that truly resonates with me. Let’s reframe minds!

Leave a Reply