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Your awesome calibration skills

By on August 9, 2014

Calibration in NLP involves noticing changes in body language and other visual cues, voice tonality and other auditory cues, and choice of words. After all, unconscious communication accounts for the majority of the messages we send to other people. The famous study by Albert Mehrabian in the early 1970’s suggested that 55% of our communication is visual, 38% auditory (voice tone and so on) and only 7% is contained in the actual things we say.

Meharabian’s conclusions are often criticized because of the narrow context in which he carried out his experiment, but there is no doubt that it pays dividends to become more aware of unconscious communication.

These unconscious cues can be large and obvious, such as gestures and body posture, more subtle such as tone of voice or blink rate, or downright difficult such as pupil dilation or skin tone.

When we teach calibration skills in our NLP class, we constantly make the point to our students that “you already do this easily and naturally, on an unconscious basis. All we are doing is bringing this natural calibration skill into conscious awareness.” In fact, you are physically engineered to be able to read unconscious cues easily. No-where is this made more clear than in the physical design of the eye.

Your eye contains some cells which are designed to detect for example movement, called rods, and other cells designed to detect color, called cones. You have three types of cone in your eye, based upon the wavelengths of light each is designed to detect. All the colors you see are based upon these three cones. Amazingly, you could see color with only two cones, and it turns out the third cone is very close to one of the others in terms of the wavelength it is designed to see. So why the extra cone? Scientists believe it is designed to see changes in skin tone (blushing).

That’s right, your eye is specifically engineered to notice other people blush. Blushing reveals important emotions such as attraction as well as anger. Evolution has designed us to be able to read unconscious cues from others.

Here is a description of the research. It can be a useful metaphor for NLP trainers.

Your awesome calibration skills

A team of California Institute of Technology researchers has published a paper suggesting that we evolved our particular brand of color vision so that we could subtly discriminate slight changes in skin tone due to blushing… The work may answer a long-standing question about why… three cone [color] receptors [in the eye] evolved in the first place in primates. h/t

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