Visual Auditory Kinesthetic:
Understand the Brain's Language

Allrighty, we're going to dig into the "wiring" of your brain: visual auditory kinesthetic also known as VAK. The three "modalities" are a simple and helpful way to discover people's communication preference. If you are familiar with NLP (Nero Linguistic Programming), then you're probably familiar with the VAK. We communicate and learn from our primary three input senses: ears, eyes and sensation (touch).

Here's the quick take.

Visual communication/learning have two sub-channels: spatial and linguistic.Visual-linguistic involves the written word, such as writing and reading. On the other hand visual-spatial involves non-words such as pictures, film.

Auditory communication/learning involves the transfer of information through listening to words being spoken to oneself and others.

Kinesthetic communication/learning involves physical experience, they retain better by doing things that are hands-on. This also has two sub-channels: tactile (touch) and kinesthetic (movement).

Identify Your Communication/Learning Style

First let's take a quick look how YOUR own brain is wired. Once you know that, then you can customize your learning/communication tactics to help you retain information better:


  • You use visual language (“I can see what you're saying”)
  • You remember images, charts easily (spatial)
  • Enjoy watching and observing (spatial)
  • You easily remember what you read (linguistic)
  • You prefer to write down directions (linguistic)
  • Enjoy art and movies (spatial)
  • You take great pictures (spatial)
  • You rarely get lost (spatial)
  • You remember faces easily (spatial)
  • When spelling a difficult word, you see the words (linguistic)
  • You are neat and clean most of the time (spatial)


  • You use auditory language ("loud and clear”)
  • You remember what people say
  • You are a great listener
  • When you're bored, you hum or talk (to yourself)
  • You record lectures
  • Note carefully what they have heard
  • You love music and prefer podcasts, radio and audio programs
  • Verbal instructions seem to make sense to you
  • Remembering names comes easy


  • You use kinesthetic language (“can’t get a grip on”, "I feel")
  • You remember (and enjoy) by doing, rather than seeing or hearing
  • When reading, you like to scan first to get the big picture
  • You enjoy working with your hands
  • You need to move around and take frequent breaks
  • Lose concentration when there's little external stimuli
  • When spelling a difficult word, you write it down
  • You appreciate 'physical encouragement', such as a pat on the back
  • When speaking, you frequently use gestures
  • Rely on experience when you're working on difficult tasks
  • You move around a lot during a lecture

In my case I retain information primarily by visual and kinesthetic. (Good thing too, since I have a 'severe-profound' hearing loss!). I remember things better when I see it, but even better when I actually do and "feel" the thing I'm trying to remember.

By now you have been able to identify your primary communication style. If you need to dig a little deeper, here are some additional "visual auditory kinesthetic" teststhat may help:

VAK Test 1
VAK Test 2

Optimizing YOUR communication style to other people

After you get an understanding on your personal communication/learning style, you can apply the same concept to help communicate effectively to others. Being able to coordinate with the other person's primary communication style allows you to be a more effective communicator.

For instance if a person has a strong visual modality then using effective gestures and facial expressions will help get the message across. Or if the person has a strong auditory modality, then having a clear voice, tonal variety will be your best bet. Finally, for kinesthetic you would communicate your emotions by saying "it feels like", "do you sense..." to communicate clearer to that person.

According to Richard Bandler, one of the pioneers of NLP he said the eyes give clues to which modality (visual auditory kinesthetic) people primarily refer to.

  • Visual - Eyes usually look up when they are trying to retain or recall information.
  • Auditory - Eyes seem to move sideways when trying to recall or retain information.
  • Kinesthetic - Eyes may move to lower right corner when trying to recall or retain information

In addition here's a short list of a key words and phrases people use to clarify their preference (between visual auditory kinesthetic).

Visual Auditory Kinesthetic
see hear feel
look listen touch
appear sounds get ahold of
foggy deaf hard
See eye to eye Describe in detail Get a load of this
In light of As a manner of speaking You're sharp as a tack
Get a mental picture Just idle talk Feeling hot headed
You can plainly see That rings a bell It's a pain in the neck
Clear cut It's clear as a bell It boils down to
appears to me That's an earful Get a grip on
You're a sight for sore eyes All tounge-tied Starting from scratch
Make a scene Pay more attention to Go Hand in hand
My perspective on this Hold your tounge Keep your shirt on!
Appears to be Heard/Hearing Voices Get in touch with
Under your nose Within Hearing range It Slipped my mind

You can use the words above to match their communication style, or you can use pictures or written words for visual communicators, or you can find ways to blend their experience with what you're trying to communicate. There are no hard rules, just experiment and see what works!

To summarize, identifying your communication/learning style can help you retain information better in any situation. Which The same can be applied to knowing other people's preferences. Knowing whether a person has a visual auditory kinesthetic preference will allow you to speak the brain's language. 

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