Learning Modalities Part 2

As promised last time, here is a follow-up post about Learning Modalities.

If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to read Part 1 please click here to open it in a new tab of your browser.

Today’s post will make a lot more sense if you have the context from Part 1. In addition, you can take a brief quiz to give you an idea of your own preferred learning modality – Visual, Auditory or Kinaesthetic.

“Seeing, feeling, hearing, are miracles, and each part and tag of me is a miracle.”

– Walt Whitman

Learning Modalities

Learning Modalities Part 2 (continued)


Today, I’d like to share with you a little more detail on the so-called VAK Modalities and, in particular, some of the attributes of people who are strongly biased towards one or the other.

If you work closely with people and need to build rapport as part of your job, or if you simply want to improve your relationships, you may find this information useful.

It is, however, only a guide. Just remember to be cautious about putting people into boxes too easily. Some people are a relatively well balanced blend of all three modalities and may therefore not fit well with any of the descriptions given below.

This material has been extracted from the module on Communication in the New Insights Life Coach Training Programme.

The Visual Learning Modality

According to research, people with a Visual primary modality make up around 40% of the population. They are heavily influenced by their sight.

People who are strongly Visual often stand or sit with their heads and/or bodies erect, with their eyes up. They generally tend to breathe from the top of their lungs. They often sit forward in their chairs and tend to be organised, neat, well groomed and orderly.

Visuals memorise best by seeing pictures and are less distracted by noise than people with other primary modalities. They often have trouble remembering verbal instructions because their minds are inclined to wander easily.

To a visual person appearances are important. They are always interested in how things look. Visual people understand what you say by what they see as you say it. They tend to think and communicate with reference to how things look and may make judgements on the basis of appearances. For example, a Visual might say something like:

“I can’t wait to see my wife’s smile when she sees the beautiful flowers I bought for her.”
“I remember the look on his face when I told him I was pregnant.”
“I can tell you are a sincere person just by how you look”.

Visual types are likely to be better with recalling faces than names. They tend to care a lot about establishing eye contact and they ideally need to see you to hear you. They are inclined to ‘paint pictures’ with their words and their hands.

Not surprisingly, Visuals make buying decisions based on how things look. So if you want to sell to a Visual you’d better look smart and have a presentable product or service!

Visuals are likely to follow vocations that play to their modality, such as graphic design, architecture, interior design, photography, artistry, engineering, etc.

Here are some typical expressions used by people with the Visual primary modality:

“I see what you mean.”
“That’s not clear to me.”
“That brightens up my day.”
“I was green with envy.”
“Don’t keep me in the dark.”
“Point out what you mean.”
“I was seeing red.”
“Just give me the big picture.”

The Auditory Learning Modality

People with an Auditory primary modality are heavily influenced by sound and make up around 20% of the population.

Those who have a strong bias towards the Auditory modality will be inclined to move their eyes sideways a lot and breathe from the middle of their chests. They are inclined to touch their faces with their hands a lot, tap fingers, tap their toes or click their pens.

Auditories typically talk to themselves (sometimes moving their lips as they do so) and are easily distracted by noises. They will be more interested in how you say things than what you say. Because they learn by listening, they are inclined to repeat back to you what you say.

Auditories memorise by using steps, procedures and sequences. Auditory people like to be told how they are doing and they respond well to a tone of voice or set of words that promotes this. Any inflection in your voice can easily distract their attention.

Auditory types usually enjoy rhymes and word plays. They like music and talking on the phone. They prefer to communicate by phone and because they are comfortable on the phone, they don’t necessarily need to see you face to face. Their tone of voice can often sound somewhat melodic, depending on the topic.

Auditory types tend to think and communicate with reference to what people say and how things sound. For example, an Auditory might say something like:

“I wonder what my wife will say to me when she finds out I bought her chocolates.”
“That concept rings a bell.”
“My boss sounded angry on the phone today.”

Here are some typical expressions used by people with the Auditory primary modality:

“I hear you loud and clear.”
“Don’t give me static on this.”
“It was music to my ears.”
“It was clear as a bell.”
“It was all double talk.”
“Don’t hem and haw over the decisions.”
“We are in tune with each other.”
“I hear what you’re trying to say.”

The Kinaesthetic Learning Modality

People with a Kinaesthetic primary modality are heavily influenced by touch and make up around 40% of the population.

These people will typically breathe from the bottom of their lungs – you may see their stomachs go in and out when they breathe. Kinaesthetics can be inclined to move and talk ‘verrry slooowly’ because they need to get a complete sense of the information being received or imparted. They tend to choose comfort over fashion when they dress.

Kinaesthetics respond to physical rewards and to touching and feeling. They will tend to stand closer to other people than visual or auditory people would and are more natural ‘huggers’. Kinaesthetics like to touch you when they are making a point.

Kinaesthetic types memorise by physically practising things. They will be interested in how things feel, both physically and emotionally. They are also likely to make decisions based on how they feel rather than by what they see or hear. Their hunches come predominantly from touch, feelings, emotions, gut instincts and attitudes, rather than what they see or hear. They learn by doing.

Kinaesthetics tend to get an instant feeling of like or dislike when around others. They buy things largely based on how they feel and are attracted to tactile goods. They need to ‘feel it’ in order to trust. They will be inclined to buy a product or service only when they feel good about it and/or the vendor. They tend to ‘weigh’ up decisions with their hands.

Kinaesthetic people tend to think and communicate in a ‘feeling’ way. For example, a Kinaesthetic might say something like:

“I can’t seem to get a handle on this problem, it makes me feel stressed.”
“I went with my gut feeling.”
“That person just rubs me up the wrong way.”
“Get a grip on things.”
“I want to get this problem handled.”

Here are some typical expressions used by people with the Kinaesthetic primary modality:

“I get the point.”
“I can’t grasp that.”
“That strikes me as right.”
“It just doesn’t feel right.”
“I’m going to go with my gut on this one.”
“I need you to back off.”
“He rubs me up the wrong way.”
”It hit me like a ton of bricks.”

Which Modality Describes You?

If you’re not sure, find out by taking our brief self-assessment in Part 1 of this post.

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  1. Karen
    Aug 23, 2017

    A great reminder. Thank you, Bill. Such thorough explanations. Getting to know and understand ourselves better plays a huge role in the effectiveness of our relationships and in the various roles that we play in our daily lives.

    • Bill
      Aug 24, 2017

      Thanks Karen!

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