Sep 20, 2021

Our senses are the doorways of our perception. All we know of the world we know through our senses. We have five main sensory modalities, or representation systems.

Our inner subjective experience is structured in terms of these senses. When we think, or process information internally, we "re-present" the information in terms of the sensory systems that are our only contact with the "outside world".

  V Visual seeing

  A Auditory hearing

  K Kinaesthetic. feeling

  O Olfactory smelling

  G Gustatory tasting


Part of the language we use comes from one of these main systems. These sensory based words are called predicates.

Use of rich sensory based language enables you to ensure that you are including all your listeners, regardless of their primary sensory system, in full communication. It enables you to create a sensory rich description to which everyone can relate more effectively. If you are to gain commitment to an idea, then the more richly it is described the more effectively it will be communicated.

Non-sensory based language includes:

Think, know, sense, understand, notice, decide, explain, arrange, perceive, recognise, work out, attend, remember.

Visual metaphors

I see what you mean.                          I'm trying to picture it.

I want a different perspective.               Clear as mud.

Try to see things my way.                    Let's look at this closely.

I have a vision of how things could be.    The outlook is dim.

Things are looking up.                         Seeing eye to eye.

Shed some light on the matter.             It's not yet clear.

Auditory metaphors

We're on the same wavelength.             Living in harmony.

Speaking the same language.                Talking gobbledygook.

Tune in to this.                                  Quiet as a mouse.

I hear what you are saying.                  Sounds good.

I like your story.                                Turn a deaf ear.

Lost for words.                                  Strikes a chord.

Kinaesthetic metaphors

I'm ready to tackle this head on.            Things just flowed.

I've got a feel for the place.                  Get a grip on yourself.

He wants something concrete.               Can you grasp the idea?

Maintaining a sense of balance.              He rubs me up the wrong way.

A sticky situation.                               I feel it in my bones.

A cool customer.                                One step at a time.

Exercise 1

Describe an experience or something you would like to achieve using non-sensory based language. Then repeat the process using enriched sensory specific language. Your objective is to get your listeners fully involved in the experience. 

As you talk, remember:

  • What did you see?
  • What did you hear?
  • How did it feel?

Also, was there anything you could smell or taste?

Take turns to describe and to listen.

Now answer these questions:

  • What was the difference?



  • Did you enjoy enriching the description?



  • What was your response to the two descriptions? How did it vary?

Predicates are the auditory cues to the representation systems that others are using. A person's choice of language indicates which sensory system they are using at any one time.

Adapting your own choice of language so that it matches that of the other person will increase rapport and assist them in understanding what you wish to communicate. The information slides comfortably into their brain processes instead of having to be changed around or translated in order to be understood.

You may find that those people who put you at ease immediately are operating in your favourite system. Those with whom you often have conflicts may simply be viewing the same situation from another representational system.

Exercise 2

Working in groups, each make a statement which starts with the representation system last used and ends with a new one. Continue round using as many representation systems as you can. Try to make up your own metaphors.


  • I hear what you say but I can't see it working.
  •     Yes, a different perspective would help us to get a sense of balance.
  •     That's a hard proposal. I'm lost for words.
  •     It sounds good. Can you show us a way ahead.
  •     It looks good. It sounds good. But it is going to be tough to do.

Now complete the exercise:

Make up a sentence of your own using a visual metaphor:




Make up a sentence of your own using an auditory metaphor:




Make up a sentence of your own using a kinaesthetic metaphor: