The Map Is Not The Terrain

The Map Is Not The Terrain

Have you ever gotten lost while following your SatNav GPS?

I bet you were so intent on the turn by turn navigation and watching the map that you missed valuable street signs, landmarks, and other signals that would have let you know you were off course.

Here are some models that sent a lot of people and resources down the wrong path. Did you know;

When people rely entirely on their models and systems to negotiate their world, they fail to recognize when it’s not working and don’t develop the skill to read the signs in the real world around them. Here are three tips for keeping your models where they belong. 

The map is not the terrain

Maps attempt to represent the terrain as accurately as possible. But they are still just models of reality, not the real thing.

At Next Element we teach several powerful models to help people communicate and engage conflict productively. These models are great representations of how people think, feel and act, and why they do what they do – that’s why we use them. 

Models should not become belief systems

Do we love our models? Yes! And as great as these models are, they are only maps of the terrain, not the terrain itself. They are just tools. We work every day to master the use of these tools, not to be subject to them. 

The purpose of a good model is to change your mind about someone, not to make it up.

Great models help us better interpret and de-code the nuance of the real world around us. They help us gain self-awareness, respond more productively, and tune in to what others are experiencing.

Knowing the map and understanding the model only gets you part way towards mastering the art of communication and healthy conflict. The rest of the journey requires several giant leaps of faith.

  • Stop working so hard to understand the model. Get out of your head and start responding to the behaviors around you.
  • Practice, practice, practice. You won’t get good at a skill until you put in the reps.
  • Fail forward, fail often. Use the model to discover what didn’t work, and then try something different.
  • Don’t defend the model. And don’t use it to justify your behavior. It’s not real! Instead, use the model to adapt your behavior to be more effective.

Next time you are lost, don’t blame your GPS. Take the risk to get out of your car, look up, look around, and interact with the real world around you.

Make Conflict Your Partner for Positive Change!

Conflict without Casualties Book Cover

Clinical psychologist and transformative communication expert Dr. Nate Regier believes that the biggest energy crisis facing our world is the misuse of conflict. Most organizations are terrified of conflict, seeing it as a sign of trouble. But conflict isn’t the problem, says Regier. It’s all about how we use the energy.

When people misuse conflict energy, it becomes drama: they struggle against themselves or each other to feel justified about their negative behavior. The cost to companies, teams, and relationships is staggering. The alternative, says Regier, is compassionate accountability: struggling with others through conflict. Discover the Compassion Cycle, an elegant model for balancing empathy, care, and transparency with boundaries, goals, and standards. Provocative, illuminating, and highly practical, this book helps us avoid the casualties of conflict through openness, resourcefulness, and persistence.

About the Author:

Dr Nate Regier Bio Pic

Dr. Nate Regier is the co-founding owner and chief executive officer of Next Element, a global advisory firm specializing in building cultures of compassionate accountability. A former practicing psychologist, Regier is an expert in social-emotional intelligence and leadership, positive conflict, mind-body-spirit health, neuropsychology, group dynamics, interpersonal and leadership communication, executive assessment and coaching, organizational development, team building and change management. An international adviser, he is a certified Leading Out of Drama master trainer, Process Communication Model® certifying master trainer and co-developer of Next Element’s Leading Out of Drama® training and coaching. Nate has published two books: Beyond Drama and his latest work, Conflict without Casualties.
Photo Credit: Pixabay

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