Learning Modalities

You might find it interesting to know that each of us has a unique preference for the way in which we like to receive, learn and internally represent new information and experiences.

This knowledge can be particularly helpful in relationships and in careers that involve educating, helping or motivating people (teachers and life coaches are two examples).

Before I explain any more about these different channels of learning and representation (commonly called ‘modalities’) – and so that you do not unfairly prejudge what I have to say – I would invite you to explore your own preferred learning modality.

“He who learns but does not think is lost. He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.

– Confucius

Learning Modalities

Learning Modalities (continued)


Twelve questions

I have included, below, twelve questions for you to answer.

For the purposes of brevity, these have been extracted from the more comprehensive 20-question assessment contained within the New Insights life coach training and certification programme. (Scroll to the bottom of this post for links to our websites in South Africa and the UK).

You’ll need a separate sheet of paper. Create a table with twelve rows numbered 1-12 and three columns labelled A, B and C.

For each question, please choose the response (A, B or C) that most closely describes you and allocate 3 points to that column. Then choose the second closest response and allocate 2 points to it. Finally, for the response that least describes you, allocate 1 point in the appropriate column.

Don’t think too deeply or spend too much time on each question.

1. When I meet up with someone who is close to me I …
A. Say “Hey, it’s wonderful to see you again.”
B. Say “It’s so good to hear your voice again.”
C. Give them a big hug, embrace or shake their hand

2. If I have to explain something to someone I will …
A. Try to draw a picture or diagram to get my meaning across.
B. Choose my words carefully and keep explaining until they get it.
C. Get them involved in talking through or feeding back what I am trying to explain.

3. When I get really upset and angry about something I will …
A. Visualise in my mind what I am upset about
B. Find someone I can vent to. I just need to shout out!
C. Take my anger out by throwing things around or slamming doors

4. When I want to build rapport or connect with others, I will …
A. Put a lot of effort into how I look
B. Put a lot of effort into what I say
C. Put a lot of effort into making them feel good

5. In my leisure time I love to …
A. Watch movies, or TV, or read books
B. Listen to music
C. Do physical exercise or use my hands to make things

6. When someone else talks to me I respond best when they …
A. Make good eye contact with me
B. Speak clearly and use the appropriate tone of voice
C. Use body language that makes me feel comfortable

7. At a party I like to …
A. Spend time watching other people
B. Talk a lot with people about subjects of interest
C. Dance or get involved in the action

8. When I buy a new appliance or gadget I will …
A. Read the instructions or diagrams provided in some detail
B. Talk myself through setting it up, or call a friend who can help
C. Just play around with it until I get to understand how it works

9. If I want to express understanding, I am likely to say …
A. “I see what you are getting at”
B. “I hear you”
C. “I know how you feel”

10. If I need to lay a complaint about a product or service I will …
A. Write an email or letter
B. Make a phone call
C. Visit the store or office in person

11. When I meet people the thing I tend to focus on is …
A. How they look and the clothes they wear
B. The way they talk and how they sound
C. Their posture, gestures and how they move around

12. If I want somebody to explain something to me I tend to say …
A. “Show me how that works”
B. “Tell me how that works”
C. “Let me try and see if I can get that to work”

When you’re done, add up the numbers in each of the three columns, A, B and C.

A little more detail on VAK

The modalities, or channels that we referred to above are the three senses, sight (Visual), hearing (Auditory) and touch or feeling (Kinaesthetic).

Most people tend to have a bias towards one of these three senses when it comes to interpreting new information and representing it in their internal maps. We refer to that sense as the individual’s ‘primary modality’.

Some people are primarily VISUAL (seeing)
Some people are primarily AUDITORY (hearing)
Some people are primarily KINAESTHETIC (feeling)

Your preferred modality

Go back to the exercise that you just completed. The three columns that you drew represent the three modalities, Visual (column A), Auditory (column B) and Kinaesthetic (column C).

You had a total of 72 points (12 x 6) to allocate across the three columns. You can see whether you have a strong bias for one of these modalities by comparing the totals you arrived at for each of the three columns. If one of the totals is a lot bigger than the other two then that sense is your primary (or preferred) modality.

It may be that the numbers you added up in the three columns are fairly similar (a totally equal allocation would be 24-24-24). This would indicate that you do not have a big bias towards one or other modality, preferring to use all of them depending on the scenario at hand.

Application in life coaching

If you are a life coach, for example, you can add to the effectiveness of your coaching by being skilled in identifying and working with your client’s primary modality (if he/she has one). You can use this knowledge to build a strong rapport with your client.

A word of caution

Bear in mind that whereas most people are strongly oriented towards a primary modality, others may show only a very slight preference for one modality over the others. Therefore, this tool is more relevant for some clients than others.

In a future post I’ll share more details about how to identify someone’s primary modality and how to use this knowledge to communicate with him or her most effectively.


This is the official Blog for New Insights Life Coach Training. Find out more about life coaching and becoming a life coach here:

SA/Africa: http://www.life-coach-training-sa.com

UK/Europe: http://www.life-coach-training-uk.com

468 ad


  1. Kedi
    Nov 2, 2017

    I was very impressed with the whole quize and it did’nt come as a surprise of my preferred modality because this is who I am that is the auditory modality. I am of course applying it in my everyday contact with whoever I engage with and hopeful it will assist me more after the completion of the training.

    Thanks once more Bill

  2. priscilla maboa
    Nov 1, 2017

    hi Bill

    Priscilla is primarily auditory, what does it mean.

  3. Dirk Koker
    Sep 20, 2017

    Thank you Bill for ashowing us a tool we can use for life.

    Thank ou again.

    • Merle Cornish
      Oct 21, 2017

      I have a networking business and a hunger to learn how to communicate better with clients. Enjoyed your modalities test.

  4. Avril Geary
    Aug 25, 2017

    Thanks for this useful article Bill. The quiz was fun and a good way to remember the key aspects of the various modalities.

    • Bill
      Nov 1, 2017

      Your’e very welcome Avril.

  5. Jan
    Aug 23, 2017

    Thanks Bill,
    Very interesting and I look forward to diving deeper into this when reaching this in the training material. I believe it will be a very useful tool not only in coaching, but also interesting and useful with close friends and family.

    • Bill
      Aug 23, 2017

      Great stuff – thanks Jan.

  6. Kendall
    Aug 12, 2017

    Thanks Bill for an interesting article on modalities. For me, your article had just enough information to be informative and thought provoking and brief enough to give it my full attention and to retain important points.

    I “felt” I knew what the outcome would be for me so that was not a big surprise but what was a surprise was the difference between the way I currently behave and the way I feel I would like to behave. For instance with question 12 I would like to respond with “c” but I actually respond with “b”. I think I can understand why but I will look more deeply into it. Of course any new insight I gain will be useful when learning to understand my clients.

    I was fortunate enough to have learnt at school that the more senses you use when learning the stronger the memory and I feel that is true for me. I have been wondering though and maybe someone can answer this, does typing have the same effect on memory as writing?

    • Bill
      Aug 15, 2017

      Thanks for the interesting response Kendall. I would certainly imagine you could equate typing with writing 🙂

  7. Nomonde
    Aug 10, 2017

    Wow so interesting! I now know better about myself and will understand others also! Thank you!

    • Bill
      Aug 15, 2017

      Glad you enjoyed it!

  8. Trudie
    Aug 9, 2017

    What an eye opener about the result.I was surprised when I did the exercise. Thank you for the insight. It is definitely a hands on tool.

    • Bill
      Aug 9, 2017

      You’re welcome.

  9. Karen
    Aug 8, 2017

    Thank you for giving me an opportunity to learn more about a particular aspect of myself, Bill. I loved the format. It made me feel curious.

    • Bill
      Aug 8, 2017

      I’m pleased. Thanks Karen!

Submit a Comment

You have to agree to the comment policy.