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Getting Touchy Feely

Feb 20, 2008
In previous articles I described an overview of the representational systems of communication: visual, auditory and kinesthetic, and the benefit of knowing what these systems are as they relate to rapport. In another article, I went into more detail about the visual aspect and here we are dealing with kinesthetic language, the feeling words that people use.

In our quest to gain rapport we continue to build upon our ability to learn how people construct their realities and how they interact with reality. Kinesthetic people interact through touch and feel.

How do you know this about a person? Like right up front, how will you be able to tell a kinesthetic person right off the bat? Well, they tend to grasp for the way in which they describe things and reach for the words to make things concrete for you. They are natural at mirroring behavior oftentimes walking in step with you or bending when you bend, or blinking when you blink. They stick with things, wanting to touch them, grasping hold of them to get a sense of their texture. They may be born touchers--massage therapists or sculptors. They will even touch their own arms or legs and may rub it as they speak. This is the way in which they are getting in touch with how they feel about what is happening around them.

A good example of a kinesthetic person is Bill Clinton. Remember his famous (infamous) quote, "I feel your pain"? That is a prime example of kinesthetic language.

If a visual person speaks pretty quick and they're zipping right along and an auditory person speaks a little slower and sometimes in a very sing-songy voice or in a flat monotone that you can easily detect they're doing, then a kinesthetic person, in contrast, often speaks much slower and they struggle for the next thought.

Some really obvious kinesthetic words can be either tactile, as in the sense of feeling hot, cold, firm, vibrating, soft or feeling in an emotional sense--joy, anger, excitement.

Another way to determine if someone is kinesthetic is to notice how close they are to you. If they can reach out and touch you, odds are, they're kinesthetic. They love to be hugged, don't ever shirk away from physical touch, and have no problem with you being in their space because they're not creating pictures like visually oriented people are.

That's another major difference between the three groups that will help you to identify them. One of the biggest ways though, for me, is that they, struggle . . . for their words. . .

Whereas visually oriented people look up, auditory people look side to side, kinesthetic people generally look down.

Along these lines, but as sort of a side note, I read a story online not too long ago about a junior high school student in Virginia who had been cited for two infractions by his school for hugging a friend. Why? His school has a 'no physical contact' policy. This includes no handshakes, no high fives, no pats on the back, no hand holding-no touching of any sort.

My initial thought was, wow, that's really strange. Then I thought of the kinesthetic kids who might be going to that school and what a disservice is being done to them. I mean, I understand the need for clear boundaries, but no physical contact whatsoever between friends? Seems like a dangerous road to travel down.

Coming soon: Auditory Adventures.
About the Author
Kenrick Cleveland teaches strategies to earn the business of wealthy clients using persuasion. He runs public and private seminars and offers home study courses and coaching programs in persuasion strategies.
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