4-5 How Words Reveal: Predicates and Sensory System Preferences

An awareness of the sensory words people use reveals the sensory system they are accessing in the moment.

This powerful awareness is useful for building rapport, for stepping into their world and finding out what it’s like. This can give you a real advantage in communication and influence. Noticing how you use words, and recognizing the sensory systems you are using in varying contexts is also key in having more choice in how you process and respond to your environment and experience.

Here are some of the indicator words and the sensory systems they are revealing. Read it through a few times and it will start to make sense to you.

If you want to really get it inside, take a piece of written dialogue – an interview in a magazine, for instance – grab some color highlighters and color code each of these words you find. The results will surprise you. You’ll discover that most people prefer one or two sensory channels, some stick strictly to one channel only, and some switch back and forth in the same conversation, usually with a change in context; for example, they were discussing software and then the conversation changed to restaurants. You’ll also notice, perhaps, an instance where someone is using non-sensory based language.

Representational Systems Indicators

Excerpted from the NLP Comprehensive Portable Practitioner Program, Manual Section 1, pp 4-6:

The process words ( verbs, adjectives, adverbs) which people use to communicate about their experience  can give a clear idea of their model of the world).  If you pay attention to this information, you can alter your own behavior (in this case, your choice of words) to “match” their process words in order to acquire increased understanding of how they are representing their experience to themselves.  Indicators reveal what part of an experience is most relevant to the speaker at a particular point in time.  If you want immediate rapport and trust with someone, one of the things you can do is to “match” them, speaking in the same kind of process words in which they are speaking.

  How Words Reveal Representational Systems


 “I  see  what you are saying.”

“That  looks  good.”

“That idea isn’t  clear.”

“I am  hazy  about that.”

“I went  blank.”

“Let’s cast some  light  on the subject.”

“Get a new  perspective.”

“I  view  it this way.”

Looking  back on it now, it  appears differently.”

“An  enlightening  (insightful, colorful)  example.”


“I  hear  you.”

“That  rings  a bell.”

“It  sounds  good to me.”

“Everything just suddenly  clicked.”

Listen  to yourself.”

“That idea has been  rattling  around in my head.”

“Something  tells  me to be careful.”

“I can really  tune in  to what you’re saying.”


 “It if  feels  right, do it.”

“Get a  handle  on it..”

“Do you  grasp  the basic concept?”

“Get in  touch  with yourself.”

“I have a  solid  understanding.”

“I am  up against a wall.”

“Change your  standpoint.”

“You are so  insensitive.”

“I have a  feeling  you’re right.”

“I am  boxed in a corner.”

“He is  under my thumb.”

“They really  put the screws  to me.”

hazy hear feel taste
obscure listen warm flavor
dim talk touch savor
film harmony handle relish
opacity noisy grasp tangy
perspective call soft tinge
cloudiness loud tight palatable
envision vibration firm aftertaste
focus shout smooth odor
picture told rough smell
vision dissonance pressure scent
viewpoint resounding tense whiff
view lend an ear concrete fume
look resound hurt pungent
gaze amplify roughly stink
illuminate cadence clumsy reek
glimpse chatter relaxed with a nose for
illustrate whine swell
perceive moan tremble
watch hiss shiver
scan groan shake
survey voice penetrate
visible acoustics absorb
see at a glance orchestration grope
glare sounds like stir
stare cry be agitated
show  silence cutting

Unspecified Process Words

If a person represents his/her experience visually, then they will speak in visual predicates.  Many of us speak in the same predicates as others, thus we find ourselves “matching” one another, deeply absorbed in conversation; and yet there are times when we “mismatch” and wonder what we said that “offended” the other person.  Herein lies one difference between those people who are able to establish rapport and trust and those who do not.

 Predicates which do not indicate any of the sensory input channels are UNSPECIFIED.  That is, they are unspecified as to just how the process is being represented or executed — whether in pictures, smells/tastes, feelings, or sounds.  Some examples of unspecified predicates are:

think                         learn                   change                   consider

know                        nice                     trusting                  remember

understand               intuit                   respect                   believe

When presented with such words there are several options for determining how the experience is being represented.  One choice is to ask, “How, specifically, do you think (know, understand, learn)?”  This will elicit a verbal response richer in process details, or a nonverbal behavior (eye scanning pattern) which will specify the sensory representational system being used.”

The most obvious benefit you’ll experience is the ability to achieve deep levels of rapport as you step more into other peoples’ worlds. We’ll be referring to more uses as we move into the next section.

Comments (1)

Awesome stuff …. !

Leave a comment