NLP Training: Representational Systems

Written by Terry Elston

In NLP training, the senses through which we experience the world, are referred to as representational systems. Hence, you have several different systems working for you: visual (for things you see), auditory (for things you hear), kinaesthetic (things you feel or tactile sensations), AD or self talk (also called labeling system), olfactory (things you smell), and gustatory (things you taste).

The Neuro Linguistic Programming community says that we all have a system that we prefer to another and hence, process most information through it. This is of course a generalisation, yet it will give you a clue as to what might be going on right! This preferred system can be determined through physiology and predicates used in a conversation. Let’s look at an example:

-The way I look at this is that it is still rather unclear.

-I really don’t feel comfortable with this.

-This really doesn’t sound right to me.

So, any guesses as to which are the preferred systems of the examples above? Knowing the preferred representational system of someone is useful in virtually any context. Imagine you go to Spain and communicate in English.

Chances are, the general gist of what you want to say will get across (hopefully!), yet the finer distinctions of what you are saying are lost. It is the same with representational systems. If you present information in somebody else’s preferred system, this information will be virtually irresistible to them!

Now, apart from words, the physiology can give you indications of what the preferred system is. In general, visual people will tend to speak very fast, move their hands on shoulder or head level, sit bolt upright and give big importance to their visual appearance. Auditory people will tend to breath from the middle of their chest, get easily distracted by noise, are medium to fast talkers, and gestures are usually on chest level.

Kinaesthetic people will tend to talk quite slow, have low breathing from the belly, stand quite close to whoever they are talking to, and have low and smooth gestures. You could fall into the trap of generalising here, but beware of trying to label people as one or another, we are a mix of each. The best target is to hone each of yours to the best of your ability

Apart from the preferred, we also have a primary or lead representational system. The lead system determines how we store information and how we access it. This system can be determined through eye accessing cues. The primary system is the one we prefer to show our internal world through. Primary noticed through predicates and body language.

Hopefully that’s been helpful for those of you getting into your NLP training or education!