Representational Systems : Visual, Auditory & Kinesthetic

As human beings we experience the world through our physical senses: Vision, Hearing, Touch, Taste and Smell. In NLP the senses are split into three groups and referred to as Representational Systems (rep systems). This term relates to the fact the brain uses the senses to build our internal representation, or model of the world around us.

  • Visual : the things we see
  • Auditory : the things we hear
  • Kinesthetic : the things we feel (touch/emotion), taste or smell

You can start finding out about the way that you are using your senses by taking a trip down memory lane… Simply remember something pleasant; perhaps about a situation where you were on holiday. What’s the your first though or sensation in the instant that the memory comes to mind? Whatever your first thought is, it will fit in to one of the “VAK” categories (rep systems).

For example, when remembering a beach holiday, some people’s first recollection will be seeing the blue sky and bright sunlight (visual); others might remember hearing the sound of the sea or noise of children playing (auditory); some will remember the feel of the warm sunshine, the smell of hot-dogs or the taste of ice-cream (kinesthetic).

Whatever your first thought is, it will offer a clue to your preferred (or leading) rep system.

Eye Accessing Que
There is an identified pattern of relationship between the sensory-based language people use in general conversation, and for example, their eye movements (known as eye accessing cues).

Common (but not universal) Western layout of eye accessing cues:

  • Upwards (left/right) — Visual (V) — “I can imagine the big picture”
  • Level (left/right) — Auditory (A) — “Let’s tone down the discussion”
  • Down-right — Kinesthetic (K) — “to grasp a concept” or “to gather you’ve understood.”
  • Down-left Auditory internal dialogue (Aid) — talking to oneself inside

Eye movements to the left or right for many people seem to indicate if a memory was recalled or constructed. Thus remembering an actual image (Vr) is associated more with up-left, whilst imagining one’s dream home (Vc) tends (again not universally) to be more associated with up-right.

Note: – NLP does not say it is ‘always’ this way, but rather that one should check whether reliable correlations seem to exist for an individual, and if so what they are

Using VAK as a tool
Understanding of the VAK concept can be very handy in interpersonal situations. It can help you to improve communication by tuning in on the same frequency (V, A or K rep system). By using visual words, you are able to attract the interest of the person who pro­cesses incoming information through their eyes. By using auditory words, you can catch the attention of the auditory person who pro­cesses information by hearing. And with the use of well-placed kinesthetic words, you can establish instant rapport with the per­son who relies on touch and feelings.

Examples: V-A-K Words and Phrases

  • Visual: Beyond a shadow of doubt, Describe, Get an eyeful, Get a perspective, Gleam in the eye, Hazy idea, Imagine that, In view of, Looks like, Like a photo, Mental image, Mind’s eye, Map out, Paint a picture, Pretty as a picture, Take a peek.
  • Auditory: Clear as a bell, Discuss, Entertain me, Give me your ear, Hardly a peep, Heard voices, Hold your tongue, Listen in, Loud and clear, Power of speech, Manner of speaking, Outspoken, Pay attention to, Rings a bell, Purrs like a kitten, Tuned in.
  • Kinesthetic: Chip off old block, Demonstrate, Get a handle on, Get a load of this, Be in touch with, Gut feeling, Draw a picture, Heated argument, Illustrate, Tasty, Hot seat, Lay hands on, Intuition, Point out, Feels just right, Moment of panic.

Note: If you’re do not know the rep system of your communication partner(s), then the trick is to be able to insert enough of all three kinds of key words into your message.

A bit of NLP magic?
Choosing the right words

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