Tower of Babble

Listening is a lost art in our fast paced world. In our haste to get things done, people can easily misconstrue communications, with consequences such as conflict, delays, and errors in judgment. Clearly a more conscious, deliberate form of listening is desirable to enhance communication.

Have you ever wondered why we can’t seem to communicate well with some people, even if we’re all speaking the same language? Some people process information in a different “sub-language” than we do. Psychologists Richard Bandler and John Grinder developed a set of concepts and techniques intended to understand differences in communication styles, known as NLP, or Neuro-Linguistic Programming. I never cared for that name…sounds too much like psychological warfare. I’m teaching soft skills, not torture. So I had to make up a softer name for it – PML, or Primary Modalities of Language.

Essentially there are three primary modalities by which we impart and receive information – visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Everyone uses all three of these modalities, but there is one that we tend to favor in most situations. There are specific cues to let you know which primary modality a person employs. In a nutshell:

A visual person uses a lot of words like “see,” “appear,” “notice,” “envision,” “imagine,” etc. They think in terms of pictures and images. Their speech tempo is quicker than others, and they tend to breathe more rapidly, from their upper chest. Ask a visual person a question, and their eyes will go up, seeking the answer in their “mind’s eye”;

An auditory type monopolizes a vocabulary of sound – “sounds like,” “rings a bell,” “resonates,” “I hear you,” etc. Their speaking pace is more moderate, and auditories breathe evenly from their solar plexus. In response to a question, their eyes will likely go side to side (or ear to ear), “listening” for the answer;

Kinesthetics are the touchy-feely folks who “sense,” “feel,” “grasp,” “touch on things,” etc. Their speech is slower than others, and the breath is also slower but deeper, from the pit of the stomach. They will tend to answer a question more deliberately, with eyes going down. They are checking their “gut reaction”.

If you’re speaking in visual language to a person who is primarily kinesthetic, chances are you will not be as effective in your communication. It may work better to re-frame your words kinesthetically, so the receiver is more receptive. As a different example, let’s say you’re primarily an auditory person. You come home to your significant other and say, “I love you!” The response is muted. Perhaps your loved one is a kinesthetic (who longs for a big hug) or more visual (who needs to “see” a demonstration of your love above all else, as in a bouquet of flowers or tickets to a show). Wouldn’t it make sense to express love in a way that your loved one prefers?

When putting these ideas into action, it’s important to know that in certain situations a particular modality will be overwhelmingly apparent, e.g. at a funeral. Even the most visual person, when experiencing tragic circumstances, becomes kinesthetic.

Creating rapport and a lasting bond with others is a crucial skill in any area of your life. If you are adaptable in your communication style to adjust and be in sync with another, watch what a difference it can make!

More on communication in the next blog. Meanwhile, click here to learn about the connection between communication and our energy level

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