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Persuasion Keys: Senses, Values and Metaprograms

Updated on December 3, 2012

Cracking the Persuasion Code

Great communicators recognize that everybody sees the world differently and they use that to get their message across more convincingly.

According to study in the field of NLP (neuro-linguistic programming), three of the key ways to crack the code that makes people different are the way they use their senses, their values and their metaprograms. Let’s look at each of them in a bit more detail.

1. The Power of the Senses

We all experience the world around us through one or more of our five senses. And the representations inside our mind also feature pictures, sounds, feelings, smells or tastes – plus words in the form of self-talk.

However, everybody puts greater emphasis on one or more of the senses than they do on the others. Our dominant sense is known as the 'preferred representational system' and people show different characteristics, depending on which category they are in.

For example:

  • Visual people tend to be organized, neat, well-groomed and orderly. They will be interested in how something looks and the sort of words that appeal to them are – see, appear, imagine, focused, envision, look, reveal, view.
  • Auditory people will be interested to hear what you have to say and the tone of voice and the words used can be important. The words that work for them include listen, resonate, sounds, rings a bell, tune in, silence, harmony.
  • Kinesthetic people respond to physical rewards and will typically stand closer to you than a visual person. They will be interested in things that feel right or give them a gut feeling. Good words for a kinesthetic person include feel, touch, grasp, catch on, make contact, hard, concrete, solid.
  • Auditory Digital people will want to know something makes sense. They can also sometimes exhibit characteristics of other representational systems. The words that work for them include sense, experience, understand, think, process, decide, consider.

Few people are exclusively in one of the categories and may have elements of two or three. But most people have one or two senses that are more dominant and they pay less attention to the others.

So, to be effective, your communication has either to be tailored to the person you are talking to or you need to ensure that you choose words that have the widest possible appeal.

Say things like “Look at this”; “Does that feel right?” or “Can you hear what I’m saying?”

But satisfying sensory preference is not just a question of choosing the right words. For example, someone who is kinesthetic will grasp a point much more easily if there is something they can hold in their hand. There are also people who just want to look at something and others who need to hear you say something.

That's why you need to find ways to represent your message in as many of the modalities as possible.

2. Satisfying Values

Our values determine what motivates us, what we feel is important and how we feel about something after we have done it or bought it.

So, by learning what is important to others, you can more easily satisfy their values.

You have more chance of communicating with someone successfully if you can provide what is important to them – in other words match their values. There are some easy questions that allow you to uncover another person’s values instantly.

When you know what is most important to them, it will be much easier to get your message across. Generally speaking, you want two or three main pieces of information.

Q1) 'What is most important to you in (for example) buying a car?'

In this context, the answer may be one word like 'quality' or 'service' or it may be a long detailed explanation covering many different things. If the person has responded with 'service', for example, your next question seeks to find out more about this.

Q2) 'How do you know when you have service?' or 'Why is service important to you?'

The answer to this question will help you understand the value in more detail. If you want more information, you could ask:

Q3) 'What else is important to you in (buying a car)?'

At this point you would need to go back through the process by asking question 2. That’s all there is to eliciting values. The secret is in making use of the information. If you can meet their highest value and demonstrate that to them, your chances of giving them what they want are hugely increased.

3. Metaprograms

Knowing a little about metaprograms is useful in helping us understand why everybody reacts differently to the same information. This helps you tailor your communications with others more effectively. Here are some examples of how you can use metaprograms to understand your audience better.

  • Direction Filter: People are motivated either to move towards pleasure or away from pain. When somebody is motivated away from something, you would tell them all the disadvantages, risks, or problems involved with not doing what you are suggesting. For a 'towards' person, you need to tell them all the positive reasons why they should do it.
  • Chunk Size Filter: This is about the level of information people want. Global people just want a big picture whereas specific people require to see all the detailed small print.
  • Reason Filter: The key here is whether somebody is interested in talking to you because they are driven to meet a specific necessity or because they want to enjoy the possibility of the other options it opens up.

These examples demonstrate some of the metaprograms and show the huge advantage you can have by understanding them better. When you get inside the minds of your audience, your communication will become more confident and persuasive.


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