Most of us have one or two preferred representational systems that we use at least a bit more than the others. These are the systems we tend to think in, and that we pay the most conscious attention to.
For example, my wife Jules pays a lot more attention to visual information than I do – she’s great at matching colours, choosing decor, and remembering faces. My natural preference is more to the auditory; I’m pretty good at recognising people by their voices, remembering tunes, and I pay a lot of attention to voice tone and how things sound.
Here’s a caution by the way: I sometimes read about people who’ve done some NLP applying ‘visual’, ‘auditory’ or ‘kinaesthetic’ as an identity-level label, as if people couldn’t process the other representational systems. I’ve even heard of some schools, who have maybe gone overboard on the idea of ‘learning styles‘, having labels on kid’s desks saying ‘Visual’ or ‘Auditory’, the idea being that the teacher is supposed to teach to this child only using their preferred style.
Apart from complicating the job of teaching, this kind of labelling is not helpful – pretty much everyone can visualise, for example, even if they are not consciously aware of it. Otherwise, how does the supposedly ‘auditory’ person find her way home each afternoon? I’m pretty sure it’s not by walking around randomly until she finds a house that sounds right.
In particular, please don’t label yourself as ‘an auditory’ or ‘a visual’ at the identity level. Very occasionally I’ve run across someone who says “I can’t visualise, I’m a kinaesthetic”. That’s just what we call in NLP “false identification”, where a person limits themselves by identifying with a particular label. Anyone off the street can see images in their mind, and here’s someone who’s been on an NLP course and claims they can’t! NLP should be about increasing flexibility, not reducing it.
Here’s a tip though – I never ask someone to visualise something, for the very reason that the word ‘visualise’ might be a negative anchor for some people. Instead, if I want them to see a picture in their mind, I might ask them ‘what do you see?’ – which presupposes that they do see something.