effective communication isn't always as easy as we think

Preferred Representational Systems

We all present the outside world to ourselves through our senses, in everything that we do – planning, memory, fantasising or problem solving, and we all have a preferred system that represents our world.

Many problems with communication between couples may arise because they have different preferred systems to interpret and process their world views.

Maybe your partner is a visual person. They are fast talking, well groomed and love to make lists! On the other hand, you are kinesthetic. You need to take time to make decisions, speak more slowly and comfort is more important than fashion. If you don’t understand each other’s differences then the potential for conflict is endless.

No one system is better than another and nobody uses one system all the time, but we all have one that we prefer and favour. This often links with an unusually acute sense, e.g. if you pay a lot of attention to what you hear, then you favour an auditory system for your processing.

Have a look at the systems detailed below:

  1. What is your preferred system, what is your partner’s preferred system?
  2. Do you make allowances for your different styles of thinking and communicating?

If you are completely different, does this mean that together you can share a wider and richer view of the world?


‘I see’

Visual people tend to:

  • Be organized, neat and well-groomed
  • Use visualization, especially lists, for memory and decision making
  • They often getting insights about something
  • Be more imaginative and may have difficulty putting their ideas in words.
  • Speak faster than the general population
  • Prefer face to face interactions – to see their reactions
  • Want to see or be shown concepts, ideas or how something is done
  • May not remember what people have said and become confused if you give them too many verbal instructions.
  • Remember faces more easily than names
  • Be distracted by visual activity and less so by noise


‘I hear’

Auditory people tend to:

  • Be more aware of and respond to subtle change in the tone of your voice
  • Perceive and represent sequences and are able to remember directions or instructions more easily
  • Learn by listening and asking questions
  • Enjoy discussions and prefer to communicate through spoken language rather than the written word
  • Talk through problems and like to have someone available to serve as a sounding board for their ideas
  • Need to be heard
  • Be easily distracted by noise


‘I feel’

Kinesthetic people tend to:

  • Speak slower than the general population because they need time to get in touch with how they feel about the topic
  • Be more sensitive to their bodies and their feelings and respond to physical rewards and touching
  • Learn by doing, moving or touching
  • Dress and groom themselves more for comfort than how they look
  • Make decisions based on their feelings
  • Stand closer to other people than those with a visual preference – to feel the other person’s energy


‘I think’

Auditory/Digital people tend to:

  • Have a need to make sense of the world, to figure things out, to understand
  • Talk to themselves and carry on conversations with you in their mind
  • Learn by working things out in their mind
  • Not to be spontaneous, as they like to think things through
  • Have logic play a key role in the decision process as do facts and figures
  • Memorize by steps, procedures, sequences
  • Turn information into language but don’t experience the sensory experience underneath

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