According to theories of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) there are three main ways that individuals process their thoughts and communication styles: visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. Once you understand these three characteristics you will be able to recognise each type and it will help you communicate more effectively, which in turn helps to build excellent rapport. By listening to others it is easy to detect which method they choose, and you should echo the

other person (adopting their language patterns and styles and mirroring their body language). We all use all three communication styles but most of us have a preference for one or two of them.

You can tell whether people are visual, auditory or kinaesthetic by their body language and the language they use, as outlined below.


Visual people process their world by means of pictures and what they see, including the use of pictures in their decision making.
When visual people talk to you or when they are thinking, their eyes tend to look up (as they are looking at imaginary pictures in front of them in the air). They say things like: ‘It looks good to me’, ‘Show me what you mean’, ‘I see what you mean’, ‘Can you see what I mean?’, ‘I get the picture’ and ‘I can see it clearly now’.
Listen for words and expressions such as ‘looks good’, ‘a bright idea’, ‘I’ll paint a picture for you’, ‘bright’, ‘that’s clear’, ‘vision’ and ‘colourful’.


Auditory people process their world and arrive at their decisions by means of the words that are used and what they hear.
Their eyes often look to the side horizontally and they also put their head to one side whilst listening. They use language that has sound as the main component, like: ‘Tell me more’, ‘I hear what you say’, ‘I’ll talk to you later’, ‘It was good to speak to you’, ‘That sounds good’, ‘Tell me again’ and ‘It rings a bell’. Auditory people will use expressions and words such as ‘sounds good’, ‘clear as a bell’, ‘rings true’ and ‘loud’.


Kinaesthetic people base their decisions on how they feel. They drop their eyes down towards the ground when you talk to them, and talk about how they feel: ‘That feels right’, ‘That makes me feel sad’, ‘That makes me feel good’, ‘I understand how you feel’, ‘I feel you are worried about…’, ‘I feel as if you are uncomfortable…’, ‘I sense you’re thinking about…’ and so on.
Kinaesthetic people tend to hug themselves or touch their bodies in some way, like clasping hands or folding arms. In body language terms this can be seen as a barrier, but if you understand that these people may be kinaesthetic then you may change your perception of them.
As a word of warning: it is important to realise that if you see someone with their arms crossed, for example, it does not necessarily mean they are defensive or angry or not interested – it may mean they process their world kinaesthetically (feelings based) and like to hug themselves; it may even mean they are feeling a bit cold. Remember to consider a number of signs/clues in order to come to a proper conclusion.

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Sue France / Photo on Unsplash

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