Filters Examples

The following are some of the most easily identifiable filters in everyday communication…

1. Chunk size (information) filter

This filter relates to our preference to  give and receive information in conceptual or detailed form. Most of us  have a preferred sequence within this too. For example, do you prefer to  have a brief description of the general direction first, followed by some     specific details? Alternatively, is it more comfortable for you to receive some specifics first, from which it then becomes possible to lead to an overall conclusion?

Chunk Size Filter


2. Relationship Filter

When looking at the simple shapes below,  do you immediately notice that all the shapes are …

  • Broadly the same
  • All the same colour, or…
  • Only one is on its side?

Relationship Filter

Recognising this filter enables you to alter a business proposition to fit the other party’s preference. If in doubt, include examples of both extremes.

3. Internal or External Reference Filter

This filter has particular consequences in decision-making processes and also in coaching and the giving and receiving of feedback. At the extremes, both can be very limiting because someone who is very internally focused will be resistant to any external criteria, and someone at the other end will need exactly that to convince themselves.

There is a great range between the two extreme positions which can cause someone to be thought of as arrogant or uncaring at one extreme, through to ‘flaky’ and dependent at the other, depending on our own preference. Flexibility is the key.

Int-Ext Filter

4.  Orientation in Time

Time Filter

This filter is most easily identified through general conversation and the overall language of the other party. Again, using examples related to the three main time frames, it becomes possible to build a more compelling case with the other person based on their own evidence procedures.

 5.  Associated/Dissociated Filter

Associated Filter

There is no right or wrong here – merely consequences and effects. In simple terms, are we associated into what we like, and dissociated from what we don’t? The ability to spot this distinction is especially important when working with Anchoring techniques (see later in the manual).

6.  Representational System Preference (V.A.K.)

VAK Filter

This filter describes our preferences in how we access, receive, process and store information. It has consequences in increasing understanding, building influence and in how someone ultimately makes their decisions. In other words, their preferences will lead to a decision that looks right, sounds right, feels right, tastes right, smells right or makes sense. People give us continual
clues through both language and behaviour.

7.  Motivation Direction FilterOutcome Filter

This very powerful filter influences our preparation for, and commitment to, goals and our subsequent likelihood of achieving what we want.  Understanding and utilising the ‘moving towards’ basic motivation direction is the basis of the ‘Outcome Thinking’ model  – click here for further details

At different times and potentially within different contexts, our motivation will be either …

Towards – what I want but do not yet have, or

Away From – what I have but do not want, or

                     – what I’ll get if I stay as I am.

Neither of these patterns is intrinsically right or wrong but they do have consequences. For example, someone who is very strongly ‘away from’ may need some expectation of ill effects or pain to motivate them to act. Overall, with practice, the ‘towards’ pattern yields greater reward for most of us. This is mainly to do with where we place the focus of our attention.

For example, once you have established exactly what it is that you want, have determined that it is within your control to make happen and have mentally ‘stepped into’ its achievement you will begin to sense some of the feelings that would normally only be felt once the goal had actually been achieved. This gives our nervous system a so-called ‘reference experience’ (or reference structure) for that achievement and, because we are essentially motivated towards pleasure or away from pain, our unconscious mind wants to recreate the good feelings and therefore helps maintain our motivation to it. Conversely, there is a lot of evidence that if you are thinking about what it is that you do not want (i.e. a form of ‘moving away from’ motivation direction), we are very likely to create exactly that result. Through understanding the other person’s motivation direction you can structure your questions or suggestions in a way that either meets their desired state or helps them to change (or avoid) a current problem.

The process of outcome thinking can be applied to considering your desired results from the next ten minutes conversation through to defining your long-term life goals and aspirations, as well as project planning and implementation.

8. Options and Procedures

This pattern helps you to understand someone else’s map of the world and therefore increase your influence. This filter has particular importance in negotiating situations.

Some people like to have a set procedure to follow, a set sequence or series of steps. Others prefer choices and may find it difficult to follow a procedure. They like alternatives and the possibility of breaking the rules. So, if you were to ask a question like “Why did you choose ……?” you will get an answer that tends to fit as follows:

Options Filter

Example: “Why did you choose your last job?”

Category Example   Answers 

 “I thought it would be new, exciting and challenging.”

Mostly Options with some Procedures  “I was looking for a new challenge, something interesting that paid more, and a friend told me about this one.”
Equally Options and Procedures  “A friend told me about it and it looked more interesting.”
Mostly   Procedures with some Options  “My tennis partner told me about it and introduced me to the person who is now my boss. We talked about it for some time and it sounded really interesting.”
Procedures “I didn’t really choose. I met my boss through my tennis partner who worked with her. They needed a support person and I was just completing a contract.”


Influencing Language:


  •   “Here are the options”
  •   “Opportunity”
  •   “Choice”
  •   “Break the rules just for you”
  •   “Another, better way”
  •   “Unlimited possibilities”
  •   “Sky’s the limit”

  •   “The right way”
  •   “Proven”
  •   “Methodology”
  •   “Follow the procedure”
  •   “First … then … after which …”
  •   “Tried and tested”
  •   “This is how to use this”

Sources: Rodger Bailey – ‘The Language and Behaviour Profile’                                                     Shelle Rose Charvet – ‘Words That Change Minds’

9. Primary Interest Filter

This pattern is best identified through listening to what’s of importance to a person during everyday contact with them.

Primary Interest Filter


  • Connections  with other people; mixing with people


  • Focus  on physical locations

Objects / Things

  •  Material  objects

Activity / Actions

  • How things are done
  • What’s  going on


  • Actual information, not how its used, stored or processed


  •  None of these patterns should be thought of as intrinsically  “good or bad”, “right or  wrong”.
  • These filters are not indicators  of someone’s personality.
  • People’s preferences may well vary with context.
  • Understand your own preferences  first because your understanding of where they are coming form will, to a  reasonably high degree, be influenced by your own “normal” model of the world.
  • Increased flexibility in your ability to recognise and work with the extremes of each filter will result in increased influence and effectiveness.












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