We’re often told to focus on improving our weaknesses and turning them into strengths. But have you ever considered why your weaknesses aren’t your strengths? There are many reasons for our strengths and weaknesses and there are different ways you can approach them. You can try to improve your weaknesses, or you can focus on your strengths and natural abilities and make them event better! So, let’s consider one of the things that make you so unique; the ways you process millions of stimuli every day using your preferred senses with which you learn about the world around you. The ways you learn and apply your knowledge and the ways you communicate with others. This blog aims to outline the differences between three main senses and how they shape you. It’s important to emphasise that, unless you have a disability (for example, when a person is blind) you use all the senses available to process the world. But we all have our preferred ‘representational systems’ or modalities, that we use in order to make sense of the things around us. The way you learn new material also depends on the nature of that material (try learning maths purely verbally or French language only visually by reading…). The main senses are:
There are also the gustatory and olfactory systems that have a lesser impact compared to the three above.
There may be another sense we have – so called the 6th sense but I leave it for now (I might write a separate blog on that one…)
We are creatures of habit and our language and actions reflect our preferences. These patterns can be used to enhance communication and find rapport with others. The differences between the visual, auditory and kinaesthetic systems are important. Here are some characteristics of each one:
A highly visual person (50-60% of you will be visuals)
Finds it easier to learn through pictures, charts, diagrams, etc
Tends to speak faster, louder and in a higher tone
Tends to walk quickly
Uses words like - see, look, bright, hazy, reveal, notice, colour etc
Likes to read, with a vivid imagination
Is less distracted by noise
Likes details and things to be clear
Plans in advance
Likes to doodle (never during work meetings though….?!?!?!)
Tip: Use images, diagrams and write things down to learn and remember new material. Use lists to organise your world. In a meeting give highly visual people to focus on an image and/or use videos – don’t just talk at them!
A highly auditory person (25-30% of you will be auditory)
Uses their hearing a lot and is sensitive to music and sounds
Speaks slower than a visual person with an even pace
Often uses words like - that sounds good, it rings a bell, resonate, speak, listen etc
Often speaks to themselves
Learns by listening and is good at taking verbal instructions
Remembers what was discussed
Likes to talk (enjoys listening to others but can’t wait to talk themselves!)
Likes to discuss problems
Tends to memorise by steps, procedures, sequence
Tip: Voice your ideas and concerns (even when on your own). Auditory repetition is best for learning. In meetings, give auditory people the chance to voice their thoughts! (you might have to reign them in though as they might not know when to stop talking).
A highly kinaesthetic person (10-20% of you will be kinaesthetic, although some sources say the figures are even lower and males tend to occupy this category)
Is often very comfortable in their body, tends to move a lot, often does a lot of activities and sports
Tends to have a relaxed posture
Is often a skilled athlete or musician
Pays attention to movement, speed, temperature around them
Speaks slowly and their voice tends to be low, slow and soft
Prefers sensations and emotions (including touch, pressure and texture)
Learns by doing – tries things out
Remembers best what was done, not what was seen or talked about
Uses words like - feel, get a grip, touch, warm, handle, smooth, solid etc
Tends to memorise by walking, seeing
Quickly loses interest in detailed verbal discourse
Tip: Learn by doing, experimenting and trying things out. Use your body’s natural inclination to move a lot – it’ll help with learning and recalling of new material. If you’re an active person, you’ll find that doing sports and activities will help you unwind. In meetings, give kinaesthetic people the opportunity to manipulate actual objects to learn by doing. If you ask them to sit still for too long, they’ll be immensely frustrated and distracted! It is also important to note that human personality is extremely complex and has many other influencers and variables. It’s impossible to even touch on them here, in this blog. Having read the above examples, can you recognise which sense(s) you prefer the most and which best represent(s) you? Can you now see how this influences the way you communicate, perceive the world around you, learn and process your emotions and the way you respond to others? This knowledge will not only help you understand yourself and your strengths and weaknesses but also, it will help you understand others. A lot of misunderstandings between people stem from using your preferred modality without paying attention to the other person’s preferred systems (it’s like speaking a language the other person doesn’t understand). So, to go back to the previous point of focusing on what you’re good at and making it even better, it is important to recognise that you’re unique in the way you learn. Use the methods that work for you and be mindful that other people may be different to you so adjust your language to suit them. However, there is one tip I was once given by my NLP Master (look up Neuro Linguistic Programming): ‘high intellect utilises all the senses’. This means that it’s best to develop all the senses available to you and use them regularly. So, get to know yourself and then pay attention to the way others speak and behave and you’ll be able to easier find rapport with them.
As Aristotle said 5000 thousand years ago ‘Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom’.