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Predicates and Lead Representational System

By Roger Ellerton Phd, ISP, CMC, Renewal Technologies Inc.


What do you notice about the following four sentences?

  • You have shown me a bright idea on how to proceed and I would like to look into it further.
  • You have told me of a way to proceed that sounds good and I would like to hear more about it.
  • You have handed me a way to proceed that is on solid ground and I would like to get more of a feel for it.
  • You have provided me with a way to proceed that makes sense and I would like have more details.

The first sentence uses visual words, the second auditory, the third kinesthetic and the fourth uses words that are not sensory based (auditory digital), yet all four sentences convey the same general meaning.

You use words to describe your thoughts. If your thoughts (internal representations) are mainly pictures, then you will tend to use more visual words when describing your thoughts. If your thoughts are based on logic or making sense of something, you may tend to use words that reflect the logic of your thinking. Likewise, for auditory and kinesthetic. The words you use reflect your internal thought processes. This is a very important point as you are revealing your internal thoughts and thought structures to others through the words you choose to use or not use - more about this in later articles.

In NLP terms, visual, auditory, kinesthetic and auditory digital words are called predicates. The predicates that a person uses will provide you with an indication of the person's preferred representational system.

The following table gives you an idea of some of the different predicates. This is not a complete list. Can you think of other words or phrases that can be added? Notice that some words like fuzzy could appear in more than one column.

VisualAuditoryKinestheticAuditory Digital
an eyeful
short sighted
sight for sore eyes
take a peek
tunnel vision
bird's eye view
naked eye
paint a picture
make music
tune in/out
rings a bell
quiet as a mouse
voiced an opinion
clear as a bell
give me your ear
loud and clear
purrs like a kitten
on another note
get hold of
catch on
tap into
heated argument
pull some strings
sharp as a tack
smooth operator
make contact
throw out
firm foundation
get a handle on
get in touch with
hand in hand
hang in there
describe in detail
figure it out
make sense of
pay attention to
word for word
without a doubt

You use visual, auditory, kinesthetic and auditory digital predicates all of the time. Some contexts imply the use of one type of predicate, for example if I asked you to describe a picture on your television, you would most likely use visual predicates. And if there is a choice, you will tend to use the predicates from your preferred representational system.

Sometimes We Don't Speak the Same Language.

Have you ever had the occasion to explain something to someone and they said "I don't see what you are saying" or "I can't picture this." What's going on here? One possibility is that they are highly visual and you have been using words other than visual and hence they are having difficulty forming a picture of your explanation in their mind. And how do we usually handle this situation? We repeat the same words over again, only this time LOUDER, as obviously they did not hear us!

Given what you know from this and previous articles, how can you approach this differently so the person can see what you are saying? One possibility is to use visual words to help them make a picture in their mind or you may wish to draw them a diagram or picture.

And of course, it is not just visual people who may have difficulty with your explanation, an auditory person may say "I can't hear what you are saying" or "This doesn't sound right." A kinesthetic person: "I can't grasp what you are saying" or "I don't have a feeling for this." An auditory digital person: "There is no logic in what you are saying" or "This does not make sense".

Pay attention to the words people are using, they are revealing to you how they see, hear, get in touch with or make sense of the world around them.

Exercise 1:

For two minutes, describe your home using only visual words. For the next two minutes use only auditory words. For the next two minutes use only kinesthetic words and for the final two minutes use only auditory digital words. Hint: for visual, you can describe the different colours; for auditory, the different sounds; for kinesthetic, different feelings or textures; and for auditory digital, you can use facts and figures. Notice which modality (or modalities) gives you the most difficulty. These are the ones that you will need to practice. If you want people to clearly see, hear, grasp or understand your message, you need to be able to speak their language.

Exercise 2:

Listen to the predicates that your friends or family members use. They will use a mixture of visual, auditory, kinesthetic and auditory digital predicates and one or two of these will be used more frequently and this is their preferred representational system.

We will discuss rapport in a later article, and rapport with others is very important. One way to increase your rapport with another person is to match the predicates they use. That is, if they use mainly kinesthetic words in their speech, then you should use mainly kinesthetic words when speaking to them.

Lead Representational System

We all have a preferred representational system (some of us have more than one) for our conscious thinking. In order to bring something to our conscious awareness we use a lead representational system. Your lead representational system may be the same as your preferred representational system and it may not.

For example, assume my preferred representational system is visual and my lead representational system is kinesthetic. If someone asks me about my last vacation, I may first get in touch with all of the good feelings about my vacation before fully bringing up the pictures in my mind.

Lead representational systems may vary between contexts. For example, before accessing the feelings associated with a very distressful event, I may choose to first access the event through pictures and hence slowly ease myself into the feelings associated with the event.

And NLP is Much more than that!

Author: Roger Ellerton is a certified NLP trainer, certified management consultant and the founder and managing partner of Renewal Technologies. The above article is based on his book Live Your Dreams Let Reality Catch Up: NLP and Common Sense for Coaches, Managers and You.

Copyright © 2003, Renewal Technologies Inc. All rights reserved.

Books and ebooks by Roger Ellerton

Consider the following books and ebooks by Roger Ellerton.

NLP book: Live Your Dreams NLP book: 5 step action plan NLP book: Parents' Handbook NLP book: Win-Win Influence Self-Publish Your Book NLP and Personal Growth Thoughts Volume 1 Book: NLP Techniques Anyone Can Use
  • Live Your Dreams Let Reality Catch Up: NLP and Common Sense for Coaches, Managers and You covers all of the basic NLP material and is a great resource for coaches, managers and those wanting to learn NLP.
  • Live Your Dreams Let Reality Catch Up: 5 Step Action Plan provides a road map for achieving your goals or coaching others to do so.
  • Parent's Handbook: NLP and Common Sense Guide for Family Well-Being provides effective ways to improve your communication with your children and your children's communication with you, their teachers and friends. You will also learn how to support your children in school and elsewhere.
  • Win-Win Influence: How to Enhance Your Personal and Business Relationships provides proven processes for you to be the difference that makes the difference in creating better results in your life, career or any place two or more people gather.
  • Self-Publishing Your Book: A Guide for First-Time and DIY Authors shares insights and experiences based on my mistakes and lessons learned while writing and publishing eight books. This book is getting a little dated, however there are many ideas that you should find useful.
  • NLP and Personal Growth Thoughts: A Series of Articles by Roger Ellerton. Volumes 1 and 2 each contain 15 articles. Some articles will educate you on basic NLP concepts, while others will challenge your current way of thinking and how you view the world around you.
  • NLP Techniques Anyone Can Use provides ten typical NLP processes that illustrate the breadth and potential of NLP.

For more detailed information on these books, please click here.

These books are available through various online book retailers including Google Play and Amazon.