Lesson 2 of 7 - learn to communicate effectively

Match Your Speech
to the Other Person

Three types of people

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council


The Web address of this article is http://sfhelp.org/cx/tools/visual.htm

Updated 01-14-2015

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      This is one of a series of articles in self-improvement Lesson 2 - improve your communication effectiveness. This improvement depends on progress freeing your wise resident true Self to guide you (Lesson 1).

      This article describes how to use an observable trait of human nature to help you  communicate effectively with adults and kids. The article assumes you're familiar with...

  • the intro to this nonprofit Web site and the premises underlying it 

  • self-improvement Lessons 1 and 2 , including...

  • the communication skill of awareness, and...

  • these effective-communication tips

How Do You Experience the World?

      In 1975, linguists Richard Bandler and John Grinder published The Structure of Magic - an exploration of why some psychotherapists were notably more successful than others. Their theory became known to clinicians and the public as "Neuro-linguistic Programming" or NLP.

      Part of the NLP theory was that all people instinctively develop a preferred way of perceiving and representing the world - usually sight, sound, or touch. Studies suggested that when therapists noted which way an adult or child saw the world (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, taste, or smell) and intentionally chose communication to match that way, therapy was consistently more effective.

      This idea was clinically exciting and controversial, and spawned a range of research, publications, workshops, programs, and several international training and accreditation Associations.

      How can you tell which of these preferred perceptual modes a person (like you) has? The words and phrases that we each use to think and speak provide the answer. For example:

Visual People Say Things Like...

  • "I see what you mean."

  • "I get the picture."

  • "In hindsight,..."

  • "It's black and white."

  • :I can glimpse the idea."

  • "Do you see my point?"

  • "Picture this..."

  • "It's crystal clear."

  • "Let me see if I understand."

  • "I see a way out of this."

Auditory People Say Things Like...

  • "I hear you."

  • "...loud and clear."

  • "Listen, why don't we..."

  • "I already heard you!"

  • "Your accent distracts me."

  • "You're not listening."

  • "You sound upset."

  • "Get the message?"

  • "Let's talk this out."

  • "She sounds just like..."

Kinesthetic (Touch-oriented) People Say Things Like...

  • "That really touches me."

  • "I'm itching to..."

  • "Well, scratch that idea"

  • "I'm aching to try that!"

  • "He's a pain in the butt!"

  • "He rubs me the wrong way."

  • "So what were you feeling?"

  • "She was pretty rough."

  • "I can't swallow that (idea)."

  • "You make me sick!"

      Note that some people may use taste-terms to describe their world ("What a delicious idea!"), and others may use smell-related words and phrases to color their thoughts and speech ("That really stinks!")

      Do you see yourself in one of these people-types? Do you feel typical kids and adults unconsciously use preferred sensory ways of describing their world? Which of these types best describes each of your parents? Each grandparent? Mate? Siblings? Child/ren? Best friend? Boss? Hero/ine?

So What?

      You don't need to be a therapist to use this idea to improve important communications and relationships. Start by studying Lessons 1 and 2 here. As you do, work to develop the foundation skill of personal awareness - in general,  and in your interactions with other people.

      Grow aware of which type of person are YOU - visual, auditory, kinesthetic, or other. Option - ask people who know you to verify your opinion ("Do I use visual terms a lot?)  Note that there is no "best way" to view the world, so this is not a competition.

      Then - if you have trouble relating well with an adult or child, notice what their preferred way of viewing the world is. If it's different than yours ("I'm auditory, and she's visual"), try using the same kind of words and terms as that person does as you speak and write. This can seem phony and artificial at first, and may slow your responses as you search for the right type of language. The more you practice this tip, the more automatic it will become. 

      By itself, using this tip will not magically improve communication. Added to the other Lesson-2 skills and tips, it can help to increase your satisfactions. Incidentally, note that normal personality subselves can have preferred ways of expressing themselves, just like people. So watch for chances to use this language technique when your true Self has dialogs with other subselves!  


      This article is one of a series of tips for more effective communication. Based on linguistic studies in the 1970s and 1980s, it proposes that all kids and adults unconsciously choose a preferred way of experiencing and describing their world - visually, auditory, or kinesthetically. The studies suggest that noticing an adult's or child's preference and intentionally using words that match it can raise communication effectiveness.  

Keep studying and applying Lessons 1 and 2 !

      The unique guidebook Satisfactions (Xlibris.com, 2nd ed., 2010) integrates the key Lesson-2 Web articles and resources in this nonprofit Web site, and provides many practical resources.

      Pause, breathe, and recall why you read this article. Did you get what you needed? If not - what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your wise resident true Self (capital "S") or someone else?

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