Sensory Awareness with NLP

Written by Terry Elston

I made a transcript of a sensory awareness NLP session from a training I delivered recently.

This was a live training in the aspects of sensory awareness with NLP, therefore the grammar of written English may be somewhat compromised at times:

What we’re going to look at now is one of the cornerstones of NLP. One of the cornerstones actually of any kind of relating and communicating and listening with your senses that you’ll ever come across. So we call that NLP Sensory Acuity, or you could call it Sensory Awareness.

Why this is so fundamentally important and imperative for any kind of relationship work that you’re going to be doing including if you’re a teacher, classrooms, meetings, business, social or with clients one to one, is that your client will tell you everything that’s going inside them really through their body. Now I’m not just talking about how they’re sitting, whether their arms are folded or unfolded, or you know whether their head is cocked on one side or another, but everything.

I’m talking about the eyes, the breathing, the lips, the colour of the cheeks, whether the breathing is coming from the top or the middle or the lower of their chest. All these are absolute give-aways as to what a person is doing inside. Now, the way we do this in NLP is not the way that we’ve seen other people considering what body language means. This is not a section about what body language means, because body language can mean anything. It’s very very individual.

Of course there can be some generalisations that we can come to in terms of body language, yet we never presuppose a type of body language, breathing, noticing the skin colour… means anything until we have discovered what that particular behaviour from the body means for that particular person. That’s why this particular section is a lot different from any kind of body language course that you’d ever do.

For instance, if somebody is pointing a finger at somebody else, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re angry. They might mean, it could mean ‘defensive’. Or it could mean, they like to point their finger. Or it could just mean that finger got stuck, it’s got cramp on it, or something like that. Sorry, that’s just a little joke there. But we become so ridiculously habituated into trying to fantasise what this person’s body language means, from everything we’ve ever heard about it that we forget to actually look out and see what’s happening with that person, and see if we can notice, and calibrate from past experiences of that person doing that particular body language.

So here’s what I mean. Let’s say you’re with somebody and they get really emotional and sentimental about a certain thing that happened in their life. Now as they do that, their breathing rate will change, the inflections of their voice may change, their skin colour may change. How they’re moving their hands may change as they’re talking. Now what you’re doing, is you’re ‘clocking’ all of this.

If any of you have seen the series called Sherlock Holmes, not the old stuff with Basil Rathbone and those guys, but the contemporary one which started in 2010, it’s exactly what we’re talking about. He’s observing everything. And with this observation you can make deductions, but only based on how you’ve seen that person react before.

Because what we’re saying is that people are habitual, so how their body language and their skin tones and their breathing is linked to their sentimental particular memory will be more or less every sentimental possible memory. And that goes for all of the emotions, Agna – she’s a person that I know, anger, sadness, grief, love, joy, expression, liking, disliking etc, etc, etc…

So first, observe. And observe what comes with that memory, that comes with that particular event they’re talking about, then you can be able to decide which particular body language means what to you now. So what are some of the things that you can start to pay attention to? So, we’ve got skin colour. Now the skin colour can be light or dark. Of course in a white person it probably is going to go redder or whiter, in a black person it’s going to go darker or lighter, so we can say darker or lighter as a general term. The skin tonus, which is the tone of the muscles, basically. You’ll be able to see some symmetrical, or asymmetrical movement, some tightness or looseness of the muscles.

Breathing. Yes, that’s a good idea if your client’s breathing. But where are they breathing from, and at what rate? Now of course it does take a fair amount of awareness to be able to notice where somebody’s breathing but you can do it. If you’re with a female client it’s obviously not a good idea to be staring directly at their chest region, otherwise you may lose rapport fairly quickly, but you can use your periphery for looking at people too. When we get into the section on the Hakalau, or the learning state, we’ll show you how to do that.

But for now just to recognise that you can look at somebody’s chest without directly looking at their chest. So they’ll be breathing either from the top, or the middle, or the lower. Now obviously if the breathing rate is faster it’s from the top, medium in the middle, and slower as it gets to the bottom. You can also look at the lower lip size.

You may think that all lower lips are the same size all the time, but no! Sometimes they get bigger and fatter, and there’ll be less lines, and conversely sometimes they’ll get thinner and there’ll be more lines and more wrinkles. You can look at the eyes. The black pupils can be dilated, which is larger, or not, which is smaller. Again, you have to be very aware to pick up on these things, but this is what an NLP practitioner is all about. Awareness.

You can also look at hand movements, and inflections of the voice as well. This is not only about visual. You can start picking up certain inflections in the voice when they’re in certain states, and you can observe and recreate that in your mind. Make a little library of what those inflections mean inside the voice. Also, feeling too. On our NLP Practitioner course, we’ll show you how to tune into the feelings. That’s more of an exercise in a classroom than I can show you in a manual.

But as you can see, after training yourself in Sensory Awareness, you could become a pretty good poker player, that’s for sure!