Our Perception Channels

We experience the world through our perception channels. An external stimulus, e.g. a ray of sunlight or the voice of a friend, is transmitted to our brain via our nervous system by means of electrical or chemical signals. There, images, sounds and other sensations are generated. These represent the external stimulus. According to the NLP model, people use these five sensory channels with different emphasis. Some people respond very strongly to visual stimuli while others have a stronger kinaesthetic or auditory orientation. When people with different representational systems meet, there may be major misunderstandings. The preferred or currently dominant representational system can be identified from the prevailing signal words or physical information such as the rate of speaking, breathing, etc.

"Desire and ecstasy crucially depend on our senses."

Language Signals
The language of a person reveals his special tendency. The preference for certain words and phrases which relate to seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling and tasting can differ in various contexts for the same person.

Visual words are see, picture, observe, sight, look, view, overview, focus, clear, hazy, vision, twinkle and phrases like an eyeful, it appears to me, take a look at, beyond a shadow of a doubt, dim view of things, get a perspective on, mind’s eye, rose tinted glasses, tunnel vision, big picture thinking.

Auditory words are sound, hear, discuss, interview, listen, loud, remark, rumour, say, speechless, tune in and phrases like clear as a bell, sounds like, tune into, rings a bell, keynote speaker, the power of speech, purrs like a kitten, to tell you the truth, word for word.

Kinaesthetic words and phrases: feel, touch, had, contact, grasp, have cold feet, be in the seventh heaven, fall into a black hole, keep one's feet on the ground. I’ve got a feeling, I can’t get a grip, I’ve been worried sick. I must tackle this.

Olfactory words and phrases: turn up one's nose, scent of the great wide world, runny nose, picking one's nose, have a good nose for, follow your nose, smell a rat, smelling of roses, a nose for business, thumb one's nose at someone.

Gustatory words and phrases: taste, suck, salivate, smack, lick, dry, delicious, degustate, savour, spicy, sweet, bitter, salty, bitter experience, taste for the good life.

In practice

If you find out which sensory channel your counterpart prefers, it will be easier to build rapport by communicating through this channel. As a salesperson you will serve your customers most frequently on their favourite channel. For the visual client, you provide images. You also ask him to imagine all things he will do with the product. To the auditory client you use a pleasant voice to carefully explain the diverse benefits of your product. The kinaesthetic client needs a model in his hand so that he can literally grasp the full implications.

As a lover you offer your beloved a wealth of experience on her channel. If she is auditory, make her compliments, ensure a romantic atmosphere over a candlelight dinner and maintain good conversation with her. If she is visual, bring her a present, look after your appearance and make sure the car is clean and tidy if you're going on a drive. If she is highly kinaesthetic, keep touching her softly and show her that way that she belongs to you. Massage and embrace her as often as she wants and choose a sensitive style of language. Also, make sure that you smell good and offer her something for her sense of taste, too, such as a good wine. You know the saying: The way to the heart is through the stomach. A great part of the magic of love many and diverse sensory experiences we give oursleves and each other.

Where learning is concerned, it is also interesting to know one's learning style. Do you learn best by looking at graphics and visualisations? Do you create mind maps of the material to be learnt? Then you are definitely a very visual learner. If you are an auditory learner you like listening to the material via an audio book or podcast. Maybe it also helps you to learn material if you listen to yourself saying it out loud. A kinaesthetic learner prefers to be able to physically touch things and quite literally grasp them that way.

When dealing with a group of people whose channels you cannot assess or which differ from one another, the best way forward is to choose a mixture of all channels so there is at least something for everyone.