NLP In Action

Welcome to NLP In Action. NLP insights and practical tips to help you discover what NLP has for you.

This is Episode 009 of the NLP In Action podcast and this session is all about representational systems, sometimes called rep systems in the world of NLP. Rep systems are yet another cornerstone of NLP, and without them, you will be in the dark.

What are representational systems?

Representational systems can be defined as particular senses we use to describe our experience of the world. There are three primary and five overall representational systems for this explanation. These are Visual, Auditory, Kinaesthetic, Olfactory and Gustatory Aka V.A.K.O.G in the vast majority of cases only the first three are used.

Start to notice these representational systems in a persons choice of words. NLP calls these “predicates.” This is meant to imply something relating to the representational systems used.

People will have a dominant or sensory preference that you’ll be able to pick up in their language. The reason you’d want to know this is that it makes connecting with people far easier. Communicating in a person’s sensory preference is a great rapport builder, and I’m sure you’ve heard people say, “we were just on the same wavelength.” There are some reasons for this, but sensory preference matching is a great step in the right direction. Talking “their way” makes communication flow as they do not need to swap over rep systems internally to make more sense of the communication. In essence, your on the same page, talking the same language.

You’ve heard of the film, Lost In Translation right?

Well, this is exactly what can happen if two people are in different rep systems and literally talking in different ways. Communication is missed and commonality if hard to achieve. This is why practising this is so important. Let me give you an example of interaction where rep systems are not aligned.

Wedding Planner: Thanks for choosing me to plan all of your special day. I understand from your email you are stuck for ideas and feel like you’ve hit a wall. Can you lay out the issues?

Couple: This is right, we really are looking for clarity, We’ve been overshadowed for some time now and we can’t see the woods for the trees.

Wedding Planner: I’m sure together we can get a good grasp on what you’re after and make all of the right steps in the right direction.

Couple: OK we are stuck with all of this – we just can’t seem to picture the event in our minds

Wedding Planner: I have this all of the time. You’re not alone. Most people do feel calmer once they have a full plan in place and small action steps to get there.

Couple: (Unsure) I’m not sure we’re getting the picture across.

The Couple may be thinking: We were really hoping his wedding planner will be able to bring the event alive in our minds. What do I have to do, draw him a diagram?

The Wedding Planner is thinking: Hmm, the client is resistant. Tough sell this one.

Now, notice what rep systems were preferred and used by each party. The Wedding Planner should be simple to get a grasp of, and after re-reading you’ll get a clear picture of the couples too.

As this example has given you an idea of miss-matching, I hope you can see the implications? The ability to listen and take a simple note of a person preferred rep systems will make you an excellent communicator for whatever purpose.

What happens in written text or talking to a group?

In 1-2-1 interactions this is a relatively simple process, but what happens when you are talking to a group, writing a letter or doing a speech? Well, there is no possible way to guess so the simple answer way, diversify your own language. And guess what? You’ll have your own sensory preference too. Changing that is more tricky than noticing others. This is well worth the time though, and as I always say, practice makes……….. permanent.

These rep systems run our whole experience and therefore, there is more to think about that our language and the choice of words we use. If a person can be a “Visual” type and have a preference of those types of sub-modalities, then it’s very probable that the person will also have a real eye for detail or an appreciation of all things visual. Think of the possibilities here!

Let’s go back to the wedding example above. It’s sad but true that lots of people who are getting married plan their day so that others will enjoy it, they consider how a person might respond to certain parts, likes, and dislikes. This is a strange concept to me but worth noting.

If this is you, or you have to entertain or put an event on, there are some other areas you can think about. What does the place look like overall, is it comfortable, is the PA system and music right so you can create the ambience you’d like, how loud should the music be when the people are eating? These considerations are what can make people feel like overall the event went well.

Other considerations

Also, like me, there will be the Auditory Digital types who will think in words and numbers. These, like me, are looking for logic and what can be explained.

So the takeaway! Listen for others preference, Find your own. Be flexible and if all else fails, use a variety of rep systems and their submodalities.