How to Communicate More Effectively by Understanding Your Listener

In last month’s article, we discussed the importance of non-verbal communication and how to use mirroring techniques to build rapport (or a connection) to establish a bond of familiarity with other people.

This article expands on those mirroring techniques by learning how to recognize other people’s preferred representational systems to communicate more effectively with them.

We filter information using representational systems by way of five senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell) plus self-talk (internal dialogue), and then process that information into “reality.” Although we use all the representational systems, most of us have a preferred representational system we use more than the others.

When you can recognize how a person processes information, you can then communicate using words of which they can better understand and relate.

Here are some behaviors or clues for detecting someone’s preferred representational system:

VISUAL (Sight): People who understand better with visuals learn and memorize by associating images with ideas (those who like to memorize with flash cards). If instructions are only given verbally, they are more challenged to recall the information. These individuals aren’t easily distracted by noise (they can work/study while listening to music or TV) and they usually have to see something to capture their attention or interest.

They use phrases relating to sight such as, “See what I mean?” or “Look at it this way.”

AUDITORY (Sound): People who process mostly by sound are easily distracted by noises. They learn and memorize by hearing information sequentially and like to be told how they’re doing on a job. These individuals feel loved by hearing a certain tone of voice or words. They also respond to sounds, like music and talking on the phone. They can recognize a soundtrack from a movie or can “name that tune” easily.

They use phrases such as, “Hear me out,” “I hear what you’re saying,” and, “Clear as a bell.”

KINESTHETIC (Touch): People who are primarily kinesthetic tend to move and speak slowly. They respond to touch and physical rewards, they learn and memorize by doing and something has to “feel right” for them to be interested. They often follow their intuition.

They use phrases that relate to touch and feelings such as, “It boils down to,” or “I have a feeling.”

AUDITORY DIGITAL (Self-talk): People who are primarily auditory digital often listen to inner dialogue in their heads. They make decisions using a list of criteria and they can use any or all the other representational systems but are interested in something when it “makes sense.”

They use phrases that relate to common sense such as, “According to,” “Figure of speech,” and, “mental note.”

Next time you’re with a friend, observe what their preferred representational system is and try to use words and expressions that match their preference. Recognizing others’ processing method can be a valuable tool on an interview or when trying to explain a project to others.  

Remember, practice makes perfect. Let us know if you have questions or if you have a topic of interest you would like us to cover. Check out our blog for more tips at or for more information on our fundraising program.

Good luck with your next interview and we’ll see you next month with another tip.

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