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How Using the Five Senses Can Improve Communication

‘The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.’ George Bernard Shaw

We all strive to understand and be understood when communicating with others but as this Shavian witticism attests, our message doesn’t always land as intended. One thing that can influence the receptivity of your message is to choose words according to the listener’s preferred language type based on their sensory preferences.

We experience the world through our senses – visual (seeing); auditory (hearing); kinaesthetic (touching/feeling); gustatory (tasting) and olfactory (smelling) – and our preference for one or more of these senses can be detected in the language we use.

For instance, someone who is visually oriented will often use words associated with seeing such as ‘I’ve got a clear picture’, ‘I’m in the dark’, ‘Paint a picture for me’, ‘In view of’ and the like.

Someone who is auditory oriented will often use words associated with sound such as ‘That rings a bell’, ‘I hear what you’re saying’, ‘That sounds like a plan’, Loud and clear’ and the like.

Someone who is kinaesthetically oriented will often use words associated with tactile or emotional feeling such as ‘I get your drift’, ‘That speaks to my heart’, ‘Come to grips with’, ‘Get a handle on’, ‘Grapple with’ and the like.

Someone who is gustatorily oriented will often use words associated with taste or flavour such as ‘That’s easy to digest’, ‘That’s hard to swallow’, ‘That experience left a bad taste in my mouth’ and the like.

And someone who is olfactorily oriented will often use words associated with smell such as ‘I smell a rat’ or ‘That reeks of’, ‘The sweet smell of success’ and the like.

It may take some time to become attuned to how others speak, however, over time you can become a more flexible and effective communicator. Whether in a sales conversation, team meeting or coaching session, adapting your own language to reflect back the sensory preferences of others, will help you build rapport and enhance understanding.

Sensory language can also be used in marketing materials to bring the brand/product experience to life. In tourism brochures for example, it’s common to read statements referring to the sights, sounds and feelings of the holiday destination to create desire and spark action.

Similarly, sensory stimulation is often used to elicit the emotions of potential buyers such as the smell of freshly-baked bread wafting through the rooms of a house open for inspection or the burning of scented candles in a gift shop.

Consider how using the five senses can help improve your personal communication and or be an effective marketing tactic for your brand.

May the positive ripple effect of your work enhance your reputation!

©Ros Weadman 2022 Ros Weadman, author of ‘Enhance Your Reputation – how to build a brand people want to work for, buy from and invest in’ (Global Business Publishing, $29.95), is a brand communication and reputation specialist who combines her professional expertise in strategic communications, psychology and education to help people and organisations build a purpose-driven brand and strong positive reputation. 

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