Neuro-linguistic Programing (NLP) Part 3: Being Heard

Individual Communication

Communication with another person highly depends on how they communicate themselves. To get your point across, you need to be able to talk and ask questions in the language they use. Here is an example of how to ask the same question three different ways:

1) People who use a lot of visual language will be more open to a question with visual language in it, such as, “How do you see it?”

2) Someone who is more emotionally driven will be more receptive to the question, “how do you feel about…?”

3) Someone who tends to use more logical or mathematical language will tune into a question phrased this way: “What do you think about…?”

These questions are all getting at the same idea, however, the key lies within what preference of communication style the receiver has. This is why communication breaks down when someone asks a question using emotional language to someone who has communication styles that are visual or mathematical.

A: How do you feel about the new decision made by …?

B: What do you mean how do I feel? How do you think I feel?


A: What do you think about the new decision made by…?

B: Here’s what I think…

In order to have success as a communicator and in NLP, you need to be aware of your natural language (what words you are most receptive to) and how to talk in many different "communication" languages other than your own. Observe conversations, be mindful of the words people use, and practice. It may take a while before you feel comfortable speaking a “language” different from your own.

Once you develop your sensory awareness, you can become more attuned to what “language” people speak, and when you know this, you can choose to use words they will be more willing to listen to.

If you want to research this further, a good resource for adding appropriate words into your communication can be found here, and a good recap of the ideas in this section can be found here.


Communication In Large Groups

Communicating in large groups is a part of daily life for many of us, especially in professions like business and research. When presenting in front of an audience, it is important to remember that, no matter what, you will have a room full people who prefer different communication styles and vocabulary. Knowing this, you should try to connect with as many preferences that could be in the room. You can do this with the language and media you choose to use in your presentation. For example, I may choose to include visual stimuli such as pictures of displays, graphs, or diagrams. In the same presentation, I might also choose to include auditory stimuli such a didactic session on the content. Finally, I may include kinesthetic stimuli to have my audience interact with the content. This might include having the audience role play a situation. By including all of these types of stimuli in my presentation, I should be able to draw the attention of everyone in the audience. 


Something To Consider

Using “and” & “but”

These two words have incredible effects on recall. When you use but, people do not remember what you said before the but and tend to remember what you said after the but. When you use and, people will remember what you said before and after and. If you want your audience to pay attention to the second half of the sentence, use but. If you want your audience to receive all the information in your sentence, use and.


Building Rapport

Building rapport with individuals is important, especially in the business world. Once rapport is built, getting things done can become much easier. Someone you have good rapport with is someone who is also easier to talk to about tough decisions. If you are better able to talk about tough issues, you can come to a solution quicker, and move onto the next. Additionally, you can disagree with someone and still be respectful with them.

How do you build good rapport? Instead of waiting around for someone to take an interest in you, start by taking a genuine interest in someone else by finding out what is important them. 

One way to do this is using mirroring techniques. NLP describes mirroring as listening with your whole body. Pick up on the keywords the person you are communicating with is using. Identify favorite phrases and mannerisms, and subtlety build these into your side of the conversation. You can deliberately do this to build rapport until it becomes natural, however, it should be done genuinely. People can pick up behavior that is forced and may interpret it as mockery. To negate this, pace yourself. Be aware of the other person's communication preferences. For example, do they like a lot of details or do they like when you get straight to the point? Try to figure out what the other person’s intention is (what are they saying vs. what are they really saying).

Be aware of the signals you send out and receive back, and be mindful of what is working and what you need to change. If you are interested in how this works, check out the Meta-Mirror technique developed by Robert Dilts or do some field work yourself and watch how people do it naturally in coffee shops or bars. If you are a recreational “people watcher” you can probably think of a time when you have observed two people engaged in a conversation. What did their rapport look like? First dates are great to watch. As an observer, what does a good first date look like? A bad one? What kind of body language do they use? What are they doing with their hands? Follow their eyes, what are they doing?

Here’s an NLP homework assignment: Go to a coffee shop or bar. Bring your computer and a pair of headphones,  but don’t turn on music. Open your laptop to a new text document. Now, watch. Write down what you see and hear. How are people building relationships? What’s working? What’s not? Do you notice anything about their body language? How is it changing?

Extra credit: Start a conversation with someone you have been observing. Use the NLP techniques discussed in this post.


See you next week for NLP Part 4!

NLP Part 1 

NLP Part 2


Andrew J. Wilt 
SEI Junior Consultant 
Apprenticeship Program