Have you ever been criticized for not paying attention or not remembering something important? Ever wished you could better understand what others are talking about? What if you could connect with different people so quickly that it’s like you’ve known them your whole life? You might be surprised to learn that the solution to better memory lies behind two unexpected strategies:
- To remember more of what people are communicating, pay LESS attention to the content of what they are saying and pay MORE attention to the language they are speaking.
- There are only six languages of communication which are universal around the world.
The good news; you can learn these six languages in just 10 minutes by reading this blog and watching a short video.
In order for your brain to capture more of what’s going on around you, focus less on the content of what’s happening (e.g. specific words or names), and more on the relational and symbolic components of what people are communicating. It’s based on what cognitive psychologists call the Baker / baker paradox. The more different associations your brain can make with what’s being said, the more easily it can be recalled later on.
When it comes to communication, there are six distinct “relational” languages, called Perceptual Frames of Reference, or perceptual languages. Discovered by Dr. Taibi Kahler, a developmental psychologist, Perceptions are the “language between the words,” the process of how people communicate that often carries more information than the content of what they are saying. People who can learn to listen for perceptual languages can tune in better, recall better, and connect better with others. In short, they hear more and remember more of what’s really going on.
Perceptions are the “language between the words,” the process of how people communicate that often carries more information than the content of what they are saying.
I’m going to share with you the six perceptual languages discovered by Dr. Kahler. With each one, I will give you a symbolic / relational strategy to recognize the language and tune your brain to hear what’s really going on. After you read about these six languages, watch the video of me telling a story. I will speak English, but will switch between the six perceptual languages while I tell the story of the Three Little Pigs. While you listen to my video, see if you can identify the order of the six perceptual languages I use in the story.
The Six Perceptual Languages
Thoughts: This person’s brain is like a file cabinet, constantly trying to figure out where things fit. They talk about facts, details, characteristics, and features and ask questions about who, what, where, why. It’s like the world is room strewn with random data that they must logically understand, organize, sort, and categorize. They just want things to make sense.
Opinions: This person is like a judge, the world is their courtroom. They experience the world like a legal case over which they are presiding. What’s at stake? What’s the purpose? Are they telling the truth? Can they be trusted? What is most important? These are the questions that fill their mind. Visualize the scales of justice; the facts of the case in one basket, the law in the other. Opinions are the judgments they render about how the world around this person compares to the law of their conscience and values.
Feelings: This person’s compass is their heart. They pick up on heart-messages around them, like how people are doing emotionally, whether they feel safe and comfortable, and if relationships are being nurtured. They experience the world like a a metal detector experiences the beach; their “feel-o-meter” tuned in to the emotional state of others. Many people trudge across the sand, oblivious to the treasures just beneath the surface. Not these people! They detect, burnish, and rejoice in the precious metals of people and relationships.
Reactions: Hey! Over there! Yes you! Check out this awesome new game. Wanna play? Let’s laugh. I hate politics. I love chicken wings. If a person could be a bouncy ball, they would speak the language of reactions. Think reflexive instead of reflective. Think responsIVE instead of responsIBLE. Think creative instead of analytical. The world happens, these people react. In the moment, lively, upbeat and always ready for what’s next.
Actions: The Energizer Bunny just keeps going and going, never stopping. For these people, action is their modus operandi. Their one and only question is, “What do we do now?” Life is about taking charge and getting it done. Being around them is like being with one of those iRobot Roomba vacuum cleaners. They are continually moving, looking for what’s next to pick up. When they hit an obstacle, they work around it. There’s no such thing as NO or STOP, only their next move.
Reflections: Imagine if your brain was the sky. Clouds come and go in random shapes, sometimes resembling something meaningful, sometimes not..always changing and always fascinating. For these people, life is a vast open space of possibility. They may appear to be still on the outside, and they may often keep quiet. But make no mistake, there’s a lot going on inside that you may never see until you search for it.
Here’s a summary
Thoughts – Filing cabinet for the world
Opinions – Court is in session
Feelings – Sensing feelings beneath the sand
Reactions – I’m a ball, the world is the wall!
Actions – Go Roomba, Go!
Reflections – I wonder what the sky will reveal today
Watch the Video, Test Your Understanding of the Six Perceptual Languages
How did you do recognizing the six perceptual languages? Did you recognize anyone you know in one or more of these languages? Anything you might be missing when you communicate with them? Will you share your experience?
For more on 2500 year-old memory training techniques, here’s the Ted Talk that inspired it all. Thank you to my daughter, Emily, for sharing this with me.
Copyright 2016, Next Element Consulting, LLC
Want to learn more about Kahler’s discoveries and develop your communication skills? We teach, train, certify and coach leaders in using Kahler’s globally recognized model called the Process Communication Model.