Empower Yourself with NLP
If you have ever heard the term Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and its Representational Systems, you probably were intimidated and shied away from further contact! But with just a simple understanding of the process, everyone we encounter in our daily life becomes easier to deal with.

Let’s uncomplicate this sophisticated and complex term by breaking it down to its component parts:

Neuro: Refers to the brain itself, including the network of cells that send, receive and store information that the brain receives from our external and internal worlds.
Linguistic: Refers to the manner in which the brain cells receive information from the outside world, in all kinds of languages, i.e., what you hear (Auditory), what you see (Visual), what you feel (Kinesthetic), what you taste (gusTatory) and what you smell (Olfactory). Practitioners learn this as AVKTO (or, as the mnemonic, avocado)
Programming: Refers to those habits which we have maintained over a lifetime, or those experiences which remain in our memory that determine how we will react to certain environmental stimuli.
Representational: Refers to how we represent or give meaning to the events in our lives through the Linguistic modes (AVKTO), above.
Now that we’ve broken it down, your question is probably ‘What is it all about and why bother to use it?’ Let’s start with a bit of history of NLP and then an explanation of how AVKTO can be used to your advantage.
In the 70’s, John Grinder and Richard Bandler, one an information scientist, the other a linguist, both from UC Santa Cruz, were curious about what made some people, apparently equal in intelligence, succeed while others failed. They studied their work and study habits; they studied their experiences, how they reacted to them and how those experiences impacted their future lives; they gathered information about how they used language (AVKTO), body language and eye movements. They were determined to understand the habits of highly successful people, by analyzing all this information and coming up with a determination as to how success is achieved. By doing so, they purposed that they could teach others to model these successful people and become highly successful themselves. Thus was born NLP.
NLP and “The Secret
NLP probably modeled “The Secret” before “The Secret” became popular. It supposes that the way we process our experiences in our inner world determines how we visualize and think about our world. If we think about it in a negative way, we will have negative experiences. In other words, how we perceive the world is how the world treats us. In order to rise above this negativity, we must transform our habits and our internal and external way of reacting, through first becoming aware of the negative thought process, being willing to correct it, applying the correction, being consistent in its application, thus transforming to positive thought process. Recognition, desire, application and consistent application, equal transformation. How can we achieve this using the AVKTO representational systems?
We experience the world through our five senses, as stated above: Auditory, Visual; Kinesthetic, Taste, and Olfactory. For instance, if I were to ask you to think about a snake, how would you describe it? The description from those of us with an aversion to snakes would be different from those who feel more kindly towards them. How you describe the snake is a perfect clue as to how your brain works. How you use your facial expressions and other body language while thinking about a snake can easily tell me whether you are averse or not. By the same token, if I were to walk into a room and found you curled up in a ball with tears spilling from your eyes, I wouldn’t have to guess that you’re having a stressful emotional reaction to some stimuli. Your body language is communicating that to me. NLP, then, is about communication and the ways in which that communication is expressed though verbal as well as body language.
Along the same lines, NLP practitioners can tell by eye movements when a person is accessing that part of the brain that has to do with memory recall or imagination and through which sense he is experiencing that. For instance, if I know you have a dog, I would ask you to recall the last time you played with him. Then, I would observe how you move your eyes in that recollection. If I knew you did not have a dog and asked you to imagine interacting with one, I would then observe how you moved your eyes while imagining that image. Once I’ve established your eye movement for visualizing a memory or an imagined event, (usually upward right or upward left) each time I saw those particular eye movements, I would know if you are visualizing a memory or an imagined event.
Eye movements while visualizing or imagining are much like being left handed or right handed. You recall memory by moving your eyes either upward right or upward left, just as you would automatically use your dominate hand for a task. Each time a visual memory is recalled, the eye movement remains the same. The same is true when you are imagining a visual scene. You will move your eyes either upward right or upward left, but always the opposite from the memory recall eye movements. Thus, eye movement that is upward tells us one is having a visual experience, whether it comes from memory or imagination.
Eye movement is different for each sense you use while recalling or imagining. When one is using Auditory mode, eye movement is either horizontal right or horizontal left when remembering a sound, and the exact opposite when imagining a sound. If one is using kinesthetic mode, he looks down to the right or left when remembering a particular feeling and again, the opposite way when imagining a feeling.
Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic modes are the three major modes through which we experience the world. Gustatory (taste) and Olfactory modes are the weaker of the five experiencing senses.
How is this useful?
The usefulness of recognizing representational systems in others is helpful in building and maintaining rapport. Whether it is a client, a boss, an employee, a friend or a family member, learning speech patterns and body language allows you to mirror that person. People relax with those who are most like themselves and tend to like people who exhibit the same patterns. By mirroring, you are not only building rapport and helping him to relax, but because the focus is on you, he is open to your ideas. Wouldn’t it be nice to be an inspiration to others? Especially children. If we start modeling them early, and make subtle, positive changes in our model, soon they will model us and we will begin to see the kind of positive behavior necessary for their success.
Learn how Others see the World
Listen carefully to the words your acquaintance uses. For instance, when talking, if he uses words implying seeing, he is probably visual. Here’s an example:
“I need to focus on being clear about what I want from my life, so I can get a view of what my future will look like.”
Someone whose strength is in Auditory processing may say:
“I need advice. Can I talk about how to set a tone for my goals? It’s hard to describe what I want to say, but I’d like to discuss my future.”
And someone who is Kinesthetic would use feeling words, like so:
I feel that I don’t have a firm hold on my life anymore. I get anxious when I think about my future. I feel so much pressure because I don’t have any concrete ideas.”
The dominate sense your acquaintance exhibits comes directly from his subconscious mind. When you recognize which of the three dominate senses he most relates to, you’ll be able to use his same language to speak to his subconscious mind. After all, it is the subconscious mind that needs to be addressed to affect change.
In summary, recognizing that over time your acquaintance may change depending on his circumstances, determine which of the three major representational systems is dominate for him-Visual, Auditory or Kinesthetic- by watching his eye movements. Listen to his words carefully to see which words he uses predominately for further proof of the system he uses. Then, mirror him to establish rapport, to engage his subconscious mind and to deliver meaningful ideas. Try it. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to recognize each person’s representational system and how more satisfying your relationships become.

Author's Bio: 

Carolyn S. Rigiero, CCHT
Martinez, CA
Carolyn is a California Certified Instructor in Hypnotherapy and Meridian Tapping Techniques. She teaches in Lafayette, CA and maintains her practice in Lafayette and Martinez.