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To improve your communication, first understand your mind

There are many models that encourage us to explore and better understand our mental processes to improve our communication and connection with others.

A simple yet effective thought-provoker comes from the world of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). Labelled by some as a ‘pseudo-scientific’ approach to communication and personal development, at its core it helps us understand our minds and operate them better.

We experience the world around us through our five senses. Our reality is defined by what we can see, hear, feel, smell and taste. This in turn influences how we communicate; through the language we use and how we behave.

NLP suggests what we experience externally is absorbed through our senses, processed through some filters, and “re-presented” on our internal mental screen to help us make sense of them. These “re-presentations” or representational (rep) systems are:

  • Visual – for things we see

  • Auditory – for this we hear

  • Kinaesthetic – for things we feel or tactile sensations

  • Olfactory – for things we smell

  • Gustatory – for things we taste

NLP also introduced a sixth rep system that is non-sensory:

  • Auditory Digital – for how we sort experience once it’s been taken in, eg: our self-talk, logic and process

A situation being experienced often determines which rep system we use. For example, in an art gallery (Visual) or at a concert (Auditory).

It’s important to remember there is no such thing as a ‘Visual person’. Labelling people makes us less flexible in how we understand and deal with them; making generalisations on limited interactions can be unwise and unhelpful.

We all use all of our rep systems all of the time.

However, we do tend to develop a preference (or ‘primary’ rep system) which can show up in several ways. Our preferences can be determined through the choice of words we speak and our body language.

For example, in an art gallery:

  • “The colours used in the painting were very bright” indicates a Visual rep system preference

  • “The colours used in the painting were very loud” (Auditory preference)

  • “The colours used in the painting were very soothing” (Kinaesthetic preference)

The rep system is all about how people access, process and represent information. Observing them can help you understand how people are thinking.

By understanding our own rep system preferences and those of others, we can connect with and communicate more effectively. We can more clearly present information and express our ideas so others can see (Visual), hear (Auditory) or grasp (Kinaesthetic) our message.

You can identify your own primary rep system using a free 5min test from Magenta Coaching Solutions at the link below:

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