As we’ve seen in the previous NLP instillations, language shapes our reality, giving words an incredible power to frame the past, influence our future, and control the present. Words, however, are only one part of communication, body language makes up the rest.
What is body language? Body language is everything we communicate besides the words we speak. It is how we say words, the way we position our body, and the speed of our breathing. In NLP, we observe body language to understand the message someone is sending us. Often, it can be hard to fully understand what someone is trying to tell us. Using NLP calibration techniques, you will be able to pick up on bodily cues to gain insight to what area of the brain someone is accessing and use that information to ask the right questions and prompt a richer discussion.
The Way We Think
In NLP, we believe thinking is done with the whole of our body, and our thoughts leak out into body language. Generally, we think in three ways which are as follows: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Our body language depicts the type of thinking we are using. In Part 3, I wrote about how we speak in three different types of languages: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. The type of thinking someone is using matches up with the “language” they use. Building on the communication strategy discussed in part 3, if you pick up on the body language someone is using, you can craft your own messages using the same style of language. For example, if you notice someone using visual body language, match the words you use to this style, for example: “how do you see it?”. This will be discussed in more detail below.
Ask someone to spell the word “estuary”. E-S-T-U… where are they looking? When people spell words they often look up and straight ahead as if the word was written on the ceiling or just above their left shoulder. Remembering how a word is spelled is visual thinking. In school when a teacher would say, you’re not going to find the answer looking at the ceiling - well, if you are a visual thinker, you probably did find the answer on the ceiling or on the upper left half of the classroom wall. This is because a person thinking in a visual way is trying to get a clear view of the image in their minds eye. If you are talking with someone who is a visual thinker, they will tend to speak quickly and in a higher tone of voice. When doing this, they are trying to describe the images they see before they flicker away or turn into something else. They speak with more urgency. You will be able to tell by their rapid shallow breathing, and their body positioned with their shoulder high in the air.
When talking with a person who thinks visually, you should use visual language such as: What do you imagine this would look like?
Let’s move on to auditory thinking. When a person is accessing the auditory part of their brain, their eye movement is in the middle towards their left or right side (toward the ears).
When someone shifts their eyes to the left side (your right), they are remembering a sound or a conversation.
When someone shifts their eyes to the right side (your left), they are imagining a conversation or what someone or something might sound like.
When you are talking with someone who prefers auditory thinking, you should use auditory language, such as: How does this sound?
Finally, there is kinesthetic thinking. When a person is accessing the kinesthetic part of the brain, their eyes move to a downward gaze, right or left.
When someone shifts their eyes down and to their right side (your left), they are checking their feelings. They may also be thinking of remembered smells, tastes, and feelings.
When someone shifts their eyes down and to the left side (your right) they are having an inner dialogue and asking themselves questions, this is called self-talk.
When talking with this person, you should use kinesthetic language, such as: How do you feel about this?
A good pattern to follow is if a person is looking to the left (your right) they are remembering information, and if they are looking to the right (your left) they are constructing or visualizing information. In some cases, the left and right may be switched (more common if the person is left handed), but when the eyes look straight ahead or up, it is always an indication of visual thinking. Auditory thinking is always looking toward the ears, and looking down is always kinesthetic or self-regulation.
Practice watching peoples' eye movements- ask questions and observe where their eyes go. Be mindful not to call anyone out as constructing a lie and trying to pass it as the truth. Instead, mentally flag it and see if the pattern continues.
DO NOT use your observations to expose a liar.
DO use your observations as clues to lead to a more productive conversation.
If you missed my previous NLP posts, follow the links below:
Andrew J. Wilt
SEI Junior Consultant