Friday, May 3, 2013

Your Brain's Native Language


Suppose you know a person who speaks both English and French, but French is their native and primary language. If you wanted to communicate with them, you could choose either to talk to them in English or in French – either way would get the message across to some degree. But, suppose that you want to make your message easy for them to understand, then communication in French would be considered preference in regard to this goal. Fundamentally, we understand things most easily when they are communicated in our preferred language. 

That's pretty straight-forward. But I'm going to get into something slightly deeper: Your sub-conscious mind has a native language of it's own.

Primarily, we perceive the world around us through 5 senses: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, taste, and smell. These are the primary ways that we mentally represent reality, and these representations also give meaning to the language that we use to internalize or describe our experiences. That's a lot of long words to describe something simple: There is something in reality, I see that thing, and I create a mental visual representation of that object, and maybe even attach a name to that picture.

Here's the amazing thing, though: when people think about non-physical concepts, they also use these sensory-based representational systems to conceptualize it in their head. For example, if I want agreement with someone, I could say: “Do you *see* what I mean?” or “I *hear* what you're saying” or “I just want to be *on the same page* here.”



“On the same page”? We've just taken the invisible concept of agreement and conceptualized it using three different sensory systems. Your brain (and everyone else's) does this *all* the time. What varies is which sensory representational system people prefer. The three most common are visual, auditory, and tactile(kinesthetic, spacial). One of them is your brain's native language – the language it uses to make sense of the world.

When I first learning about this concept, I was fascinated to discover that me and my husband speak different mental “native languages.” I am much more visual. Every time I come across a concept, it's “Do you see what I mean?” or “from this viewpoint, you can see that this makes sense...” or “look at it this way.” Very visual metaphors that I constantly use without consciously thinking about it. My husband, though, thinks in spacial, tactile terms. With him, it's more about “coming across,” “steam rolling,” “finding common ground,” “where the rubber meets the road,” and so on.

Of course, no one sticks to just one type of metaphor, but each person usually has one type that they primarily prefer and use. If you listen to the language that people use, (or look at what they type), then you can notice if they primarily use visual, auditory, or tactile metaphors, and then you'd know what their brain's native language is. Is this helpful information? Absolutely, if you plan to communicate with them and want your message to be easily understood. When you know what their preferred representational system is, you can use those types of phrases and metaphors when talking with them. After all, we all understand things most easily when they are communicated in our preferred language.



Visual language examples:

I see what you're saying
That looks good
That idea isn't clear
My mind just went blank
Cast some light on the subject
Get a new perspective/point of view/view point
An insightful/enlightening/colorful example
Tunnel vision
In light of
Get the picture
Eye to eye
Beyond the shadow of a doubt
See to it
In view of
Catch a glimpse
Mind's eye
Mental picture
Brilliant
Oversight


Auditory language examples:

I hear you
That rings a bell
Sounds good to me
Everything just suddenly clicked
Listen to me
In harmony with
Something tells me not to
Harping on
That resonates with me
Word for word
Voice an opinion
Unheard of
Call on
Tuned out


Tactile language examples:

Grasp the concept
Get a handle on it
Pull yourself together
A solid understanding
I'm up against a wall
I have a feeling you're right
All comes down to this
Get in touch with
Where the rubber meets the road
Change your standpoint
Insensitive
Come up with
Underhanded
Come to grips with
On the right track
One step at a time
Pull some strings
Sharp as a tack
On your toes
A heated argument
Under my skin
Hit the nail on the head
Off-the-cuff
Crossing a line



This list is obviously not a complete list, but I hope that it includes enough to help you start seeing the patterns of language that can be used.  One fun thing to do is to listen to various songs, and notice which type of metaphor is used most frequently within that song.  Very fun.

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