7-1 Modalities Revealed in Language – Predicates

Once again, you’ve experienced the importance of rapport and various ways to gain it.  This chapter focused on detecting a speaker’s preferred sensory modality and matching it to establish rapport.

There used to be a common misconception that a person was visual, kinesthetic, auditory – just one particular mode.  This is inaccurate – so avoid that mistake. While people have preferences in their modalities of perception and thought, everyone does all of them. Which one someone  prefers in a particular moment can and will usually change with context. So it’s important to pay attention in the moment.

As a refresher,  here is the material on how the choice of predicates (sensory words) can reveal someone’s sensory modality as they are speaking. It’s well worth going through this again, and even playing a few recognition games.

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.

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