Do you look down and mumble when you’re nervous? Do you stare up towards the sky when you’re trying to remember something you’ve read? Have you noticed other people doing these things?
It’s all to do with using different parts of your brain. We have five senses: seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting. We differ, though, in the way we use them, and we often prefer to use one sense more than the others.
Some people are visual types, and they notice the things they see. Others are auditory and more aware of sounds, while others prefer to feel and touch things. We call that sense of touch, ‘kinetic.’
Amazingly, you can tell which sense a person’s using, just by looking at their eyes. If their eyes go up to look at the sky, they’ve thinking visually. If they look down, they’re noticing how they feel, and if their eyes move sideways, it’s a sign that they’re concentrating on sound.
The areas of your brain that deal with your senses are in slightly different places, and brain scanning shows that the direction of your eyes can indicate which bit of your brain is most active.
Knowing more about how others notice the world can help us to get on with people in day to day life as well as in the working world.
Sometimes we assume that everyone thinks the same as us, but we’re all different. The more we understand about our differences, the better we’re able to connect with people, enjoy their company, and make an impact on them at work.
Being aware of the options is a great tool in your communication kit. You can talk and write more meaningfully, by ‘talking the same language’ as your audience.
‘I see what you mean,’ ‘I hear you loud and clear,’ ‘Let me get a handle on that.’
The words and phrases we use give other clues about the way we think. When we say, ‘I was moved,’ or ‘he’s so sharp he’ll cut himself,’ or ‘hold on a minute,’ we’re using feeling ‘kinaesthetic’ language.
If we talk about, ‘I’m under a cloud,’ ‘you’re a sight for sore eyes,’ or ‘I can see my way forward,’ we’re using visual imagery.
And when we say, ‘it was music to my ears,’ ‘I hear you loud and clear,’ or ‘to tell the truth,’ we’re using auditory language.
You’ll find you use all your senses, but it’s likely you’ll find yourself preferring one or two of them. You may already have an idea about how you notice things. For example, do you learn best by reading what’s written or do you like to hear someone telling you information?
If you want to explain something, it helps to appreciate the way they think and learn. If you’re telling your aunt how to retune her television, for example, she may want to follow the written instructions. Or she may be better listening to an explanation, or will want to watch someone doing it and copy their actions.
Use word clues and eye movements to find out what kind of explanation will work best, or use all the sensory channels just to make sure.
Why not spend some time watching and listening, to find out the kind of language and learning that works for you and the people around you. With that tool in your communication kit, you can find endless ways to be clearer, get on people’s wave length and make connections.
If you'd like to read more about building your own communication kit, go to SpeechContacts
I write this Communication Blog
Frances Evesham: on the run around Europe for years, with only a husband, three children and a succession of opinionated cats to keep me out of trouble. Somerset stopped me in my tracks. Now I walk in the country and breathe sea air. I will get around to cleaning the house soon.
I've been a speech therapist, a professional communication fiend and a road sweeper. I sometimes work in the criminal courts to uphold fair questioning of people with special needs.
I smell the roses, lavender and rosemary as I cook with a glass of wine in one hand and a bunch of chillies in the other. Writing historical romances and books on communication leaves enough time to enjoy bad jokes and puns and wish I’d kept on with the piano lessons.