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Animal, Vegetable or Mineral: Chunking

Animal, Vegetable or Mineral by Rachel Hott, Ph.D. Source: Anchor Point Magazine

Some of you may know that in communication there is a distinction between content and form. If you are a beginner to NLP separating content and form is one of your first steps to becoming a seasoned NLPer. If you are a seasoned NLPer then content and form are already separated and you are in the land of multi-level communication. Each back to basics article that I have written has had a variety of levels to read and discern. Please feel free to continue to read at your level now.

Do you remember playing the game twenty questions? One of the first questions is, “Is it animal, vegetable or mineral?” This question establishes a category for the person to then organize their next question. In NLP jargon the first question is a large chunk question. Chunk size relates to information whether it is large, small or similar to another chunk size. If the answer to the large chunk question is animal then the next question to follow would be going for specifics which is a small chunk. For example, Is it a kangaroo? This appears to be quite a jump from animal so perhaps a question asking for its natural habitat would be more proportional.

Let us take the large chunk ANIMAL and chunk down (get more specifics). There are lots of kinds of animals so you could chunk down and add Farm Animals, Work Animals, Domestic Animals and Show Animals. At that point you could continue to chunk down and identify Horse, Dog, Cat, Cow etc. If you wanted to chunk down another way you can identify parts of the animal; tail, legs, teeth, ears etc. You can also chunk laterally which means identifying a category that relates to ANIMAL. For example: If you had the category ANIMAL and the chunk up was CREATURES you ask yourself what else fits under this category. For example, Monsters, Humans and Space Creatures can be added as lateral chunks. In order to chunk laterally you first chunk up from the initial category. Chunking is an excellent way for you to become masterful at twenty questions. It is also a useful pattern for you to master in interpersonal and intra-personal communication.

One of my occupations is parenting. (Large chunk). As I parent two children I discover how important it is to chunk information appropriately. When we were preparing for a trip to Seattle I began by saying that we will be going on a plane, and that it is a long ride, there will be lots of different people etc. When we were on the plane the excitement wore off and my son spoke the classic line, “Mom, are we there yet?” It was then that I realized that I had small chunked all the pieces of our trip and I hadn’t described it as an adventure. I responded by saying that if we were there we wouldn’t have the adventure of flying and now is the time for the adventure to begin. After I chunked (framed) the experience for him as an adventure he was able to have more fun on the plane. Responding to chunk size and being conscious of your own chunk size are two elements in using chunking in your daily conversations.

In order to establish rapport NLP trainees are taught to match the other person’s model of the world. This applies to chunking as well. If you want to establish, deepen and maintain rapport match the person’s chunk size. Imagine meeting someone who loves facts and figures. They are showing you a new product and give the statistics for its time efficiency. If you respond by saying,”Gee, it sure is an efficient product,” they will listen to you but will not feel as though they have been heard. Instead if you respond by saying,” Well those numbers are real impressive and I’m sure each second that we save will be money in our pocket,” then you are responding to the chunk size of information. That was an example of an individual who chunked small, affectionately known as a “small chunker.” If you meet a “small chunker” match their small chun