Life is a foreign language; all men mispronounce it.
—Christopher Morley, author and journalist
When you take a beach house for the summer, is it primarily to hear the crashing waves, watch the dolphins play in sky-blue water, or feel the warm sand between your toes? Your motivation may be the clue to your primary "language" in interpreting the world. In short, your neuro linguistic programming (NLP).
Another way to tell whether people are audio, video, or kinesthetic is to notice how they learn. Copious note-takers are usually videos. If you want to convey something to an audio learner, offer an audiotape package or a book on tape. Kinesthetics learn most from experience, by being there.
Because people hear in three different languages, but only one to a customer, it's best to include visual, audio, and kinesthetic words and approaches in your communication. For the audios, you're already on the right track by talking. But do your words have the inflection of a delightful conversation, biting sarcasm, or a dry sense of humor? Do you repeat words or phrases for emphasis? Are you genuinely lively, intriguing, or compelling? Do you use audio words such as "listen," "hear this," "and let me tell you"? If you're droning on in a monotone or with more uh's and um's than words, you'll lose the audios first because they hear everything.
For the videos, use visual words such as "see it this way," "my view is," or "looking at it from a different perspective." Word pictures will also go a long way in convincing video listeners. Paint the scene for them, precisely but concisely. Tell it to them in a way that they can see it happening. Give them an unforgettable analogy that shows what you are saying.
National Semiconductor's CEO, Brian Halla, did just that in a keynote address at the 2002 Las Vegas trade show, COMDEX. Mr. Halla compared and contrasted the boom and bust of the Internet, our wired world of fiber optic cable, to the railroad track that was laid end-to-end across the country in the late 19th century. The track was there, the groundwork laid, "But you couldn't give a boxcar away" until another wave of innovation ushered in the refrigerator car, creating a whole new meatpacking industry. Mr. Halla's analogy of boxcars for computer boxes made the point with an audience that will, no doubt, have a hand in the next wave of innovation.
The feeling folks among us need to sense something: laughter, warmth, passion, and excitement. Identify a take-home emotion and then use words and pictures to go with it. In Mr. Halla's case, it was a sense of adventure, pioneering, envisioning a future where no one has gone before.
How do you feel about your topic? What emotion do you want to leave with your audience? Does this situation make you laugh or want to cry? What caused you to raise your voice? How do you show that you are genuinely glad to be here? Is this subject important to you? How will the audience know?
Finally, what do you want from your audience? Sometimes you have to cue them. The late Jack Benny cued his audience that it was time to laugh with folded hands and a pursed-lip pause. On The Tonight Show, Johnny Carson was famous for his stay-tuned-for-a-haymaker sideways glance at the camera, straight into every home and funny bone in America.
Actors are teased for asking, "What is my motivation?" Speakers need one, too. One, not many, so the communication is clear. Because it's a safe bet that your audience will include audios, videos, and kinesthetics, your speech or presentation must have something for everyone.
Are you getting the idea that you are the conductor with a whole orchestra at your command? So, now add Commanding to your C-words.
Speaking one-on-one gives you the advantage of testing your listener for his or her NLP. It's advantageous to know and use each individual's language to enhance communication. For example, if you know someone primarily speaks French, you might begin with "Bonjour."
Certainly, the important relationships of your life should be typecast so you can reach them with the words they can best hear. If they are important relationships, you probably have developed a conversational connection already, but it's helpful to identify each and use the language in your communication with them.
I once had an office of four: I was the video, my salesperson was an audio, and both my business advisor and executive assistant were kinesthetic. Our language probably revealed this daily, but as a visual I learned more by watching. Our offices were in a beautiful high-rise building with high-tech black glass furnishings, art, and breathtaking, panoramic views that reflected my visual taste. The salesperson kept her door closed the entire time so as not to be distracted by other conversations in the office and spent hour upon hour making sales calls and managing client relations by talking on the phone. The managers were very sympathetic to the pressure and climbed the walls when tension was high. By knowing and appreciating each of their languages, and they mine, we could better understand and communicate with each other.
To test the important people in your life, begin by listening to the words they use while observing their habits and values. Audios hear the world. They will use sound words and phrases, play music on their computers, and/or be easily distracted by sound. These hearing folks may be unusually annoyed by a dripping faucet, talk a lot, be into music, and enjoy the sound of the waves more than the sunshine or the vastness of the ocean when they go to the beach.
Kinesthetics feel the world. Their beach experience might be more about the feel of the hot sand on their bare feet or of the ocean breeze. Ask them about their childhood, and you might get a memory of the sweet smells of Gram's fresh-baked apple pie or the luxury of bubble baths.
Videos see the world. They watch the waves crash or the sunset go from crimson to gold. They are always looking into things and will buy a house for the view. We read memories off the television screens of our minds like still-life paintings — take one look and see it all.
And in every conversation, you will get audio and perhaps video cues to identify a stranger's primary language. Eye movements are a giveaway, too. Notice (a visual cue) whether his eyes look up, to the side, or down when he is thinking. Up indicates visual, the side is auditory, and down, toward feelings, is kinesthetic.
Once you have read the people around you, and yourself, you will have a better understanding of how to communicate through language. Being able to use another's approach to the world with appropriate phrases such as "Let's look at it this way," "It sounds to me like," or "My feeling is," reinforces that you are one with them.
If you are unsure, test to see or hear or feel which of the following phrases another is most responsive to: "Do you see what I mean," "Listen to this," "How do you feel about it?" When you hit the right chord, there will be a visible difference in the response. It is like a door opening to you, and you are welcome to walk through it.
Practice listening and looking for others' audio and behavioral cues, too. If you are kinesthetic, you may just sense what the other person needs. Did she buy her car for the color, the purr of the engine, or the smell of new leather?
An equally important aspect of neuro linguistic programming is "mirroring." It is a subtle reflection of another's body language during conversation. Subtly, copy the way he is sitting, what she's doing with her hands, and so forth. Keep reflecting his or her motion or posture until when you change positions, he or she begins to mirror you. That tells you that you are in tune and you can begin to "lead" the dance and ask for what you want.
The host of a very popular and long-running talk show, Hour Magazine, was reputed to mirror his guests to put them at ease and enhance their abilities as talk show guests.
Is your new client so much a video that too much talking will bore her? Will she take one look at your messy desk or the spot on your tie and doubt your attention to detail? If you are an audio, stop talking and listen to what she says.
If your client is an audio, perhaps you won't be able to get her off the phone. Her e-mails and voice messages may go on and on. Remember that all she knows of the world is what she hears, so if you are a video, try to focus on what she tells you.
Are your client's feelings easily hurt? Is he moody and mercurial? Does he sense when you are happy or stressed? Does he dress for comfort or style? Try to avoid pressuring him to make a decision.
In order to make a good impression, first read people by each one's language and eye movements, then subtly mirror them in conversation and body language. You will hear, see, or feel a connection.