A colleague from the UK mailed me saying: “I suppose what I have difficulty with is … if according to the NLP model ‘personality’ is situational, in other words we are ‘at cause’ and can choose to be whoever we wish to be depending upon our outcome and upon our context, then how could we ever measure that? Personality from this perspective is not a stable trait which can predict certain behaviours and language in certain contexts, it is simply what someone chooses to do or not do. Congratulations on getting Mind Sonar to where it is. A great effort and good news for those who wish to see standards raised in NLP.”
Let me respond to what seems to be a misunderstanding here (I am not referring to the compliment of course). MindSonar does not measure personality. MindSonar measures how someone thinks in a given context. MindSonar is the first contextual measurement of thought processes. MindSonar presupposes that people have different meta profiles in different situations. And in fact, you can verify this for yourself quite easily . One of the assignments in the MindSonar certification training is to make a profile for two different situations: one in which you were ‘in flow’ and everything was going just fine, you were ‘at your best’. And another profile for a situation where you were unhappy with how you responded. People usually show strikingly different profiles for these two situations. If you want to experience first hand how your thinking style changes with the situation, do this exercise: profile yourself for two completely different contexts.
Everything changes by context
We have incorporated this exercise in our Certification Training to demonstrate to MindSonar Professionals right from the start, that they have different meta programs active in different situations. The same principle was expressed by Rodger Bailey in his adagium: “Everything changes by context”.
That having been said, we also noticed that people differ in the extent to which they differ. Everybody’s thinking style changes by context, but some people’s more than other’s. In other words: people do differ in how much their thinking changes by context. Theoretically, we neither subscribe to the position that there is a fixed personality that people will always show everywhere. But neither do we believe that personality is entirely a matter of choice, that ‘we can choose to be whoever we wish to be’.
Some people change more than others when the context changes
As usual, and maybe this is typically Dutch, we believe the truth is somewhere in the middle. Everything changes by context, and some people change more than others when the context changes. Some people change less when the context changes. Some people – although this seems to be relatively rare – will have the same profiles, no matter what happens. And others may have certain clusters (meta program combinations) that remain the same in different contexts. These stable elements might be considered personality traits for these specific people. Personality is defined as: ‘The combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s distinctive character’.
Although it is not being said literally in this definition, it seems to be presupposed that these characteristics are stable over situations and time. Otherwise we would have to wonder: ‘Which personality will he be in today?’ That sounds strange, doesn’t it? How could you observe their ‘distinctive character’ if it changes all the time? There is even a psychiatric condition that is characterized by shifts in personality: ‘Dissociative identity disorder’ (previously known as multiple personality). The fact that this is thought to be caused by severe childhood trauma, shows us how unusual, psychopathological even, personalty changes are considered to be. So we may safely assume that personality characteristics are stable over time and place. And since MindSonar measures thinking style elements that change with the context, it follows that MindSonar does not measure personality. As we said, someone’s meta programs may in some cases be exceptionally stable, but MindSonar presupposes and generally shows – the opposite.