Accessing Cues: Modalities 201

Portions of this article are excerpted from a workshop held in April, 2008 entitled, “Influence Your World.”

Related to VAK, which we covered previously, we dive into one of the cooler, covert, yet stunningly simple-to-learn skills in the NLP toolkit: Eye Accessing Cues. The thing that makes these so remarkable is that by watching someone’s eye moving, we can discern which sensory modality they are using within their mind. Consider the power of that for a moment. It’s remarkable enough that we can discern such insight covertly. Though in later lessons, the real power of this insight will become massive.

That the Eye Accessing Cues can be so precise is remarkable. It reveals an aspect of neurophysiology that most scientists had overlooked until Bandler and Grinder noticed it. Let’s take a look…

Picture a human face, then consider the eyes moving one of six directions. As the eyes do this, they are activating a different portion of our neurology. Therein lies the power, as we can tell with a good amount of precision what’s going on “in there”. We can know whether the person is constructing an image or auditory information—or constructing either. Further, we can determine whether the person is accessing a feeling or having an internal dialog, which we call “Auditory Digital.”

Note: These statements have a high tendency to be true, though we must calibrate effectively to ensure we have not found an exception. Likewise, some have reported left-handed people who reverse the sides—that is, Visual and Auditory Remembered, along with Auditory Digital are to the subject’s right, rather than the left, as would be the case for most people. Similarly, for such anomalies, Visual and Audio Constructed, along with Kinesthetic, may be to the subject’s left rather than right. Calibration is key here. Test before assuming.

Visual Remembered (“VR”) When people look up to their left, they are accessing pictures they have seen before, such as their first Prom picture.
Visual Constructed (“VC”) When people look up to their right, they are constructing images they have not seen before, such as a hot pink Ferrari.
Auditory Remembered (“AR”) When people look sideways to their left, they are hearing something they have heard before, such as their partner’s voice.
Auditory Constructed(“AC”) When people look sideways to their right, they are hearing something they have not heard before, such as the sound of the ornate doorbell in their dream house.
Auditory Digital (“AD”) When people look down to their left, they are talking to themselves in their own voice, having a dialog, such as the dialog regarding whether or not to make a significant purchase.
Kinesthetic (“K”) When people look down to their right, they are accessing emotions or bodily sensations, such as feeling a satisfied tingle that they’ve made the right decision.
As we verify the location for the eye accessing cues with the person before us, we now have insight into unspoken, silent processes. Sure, once they speak, they may use predicates that suggest which sensory modality is at play. But until then, we can observe these cues to discern that information. That’s relevant because as we undertake any work with the person, whether it’s therapy, helping them choose the right product to buy, or even merely having a more thorough conversation in which we fully understand them and demonstrate that, we are clueless until we know how to engage. Knowing the sense involved in the thought they are having gives us an excellent place to “meet them where they are”. The same is true regarding HOW they are having that sensory experience. If it’s remembered, for instance, we can pace that fact, ask details about the remembered image or sound, which demonstrates to the subject that we “get” them.

In my workshop on Influence, I teach attendees to identify predicates as well as eye accessing cues to gather information on the other person’s internal processes. For this demonstration, I thought an actual example I used in that class might be useful. It illustrated each of the “locations” while also being funny in parts.

First, let’s do a quick demonstration. I put the eye accessing chart up on the projection screen over to the left, so feel free to reference that. First, I want to volunteer someone…YOU! Some people’s eye movements are rapid and they don’t spend much time in that location, which takes a little more practice to detect. I chose Dave here because he’s very expressive in this way. He seems to linger at each location a second or so more than some, which will make it easy as we’re seeing this for perhaps the first time, to understand what we’re seeing. So Dave, please come up here, and I’d like you to please face the group. I’m going to stand off to the side a bit, so I can still see your eyes. But I also don’t want to obstruct anyone else’s view. Here’s what we’ll do…I’m going to ask a series of questions, Dave, and I don’t necessarily want you to answer, but instead to just determine what the answer would be…this will make sense in a moment because I’m going to ask you to do things in your head, NOT produce a verbal answer. I’m then going to tell the group what I believe you did and I’d like you to keep me honest. If I missed it, please say so. Okay? Here are the questions:

“First, Dave, I want you to recall what your house or apartment’s front door looks like…okay, did everyone see that? Dave, I believe you saw a picture that you have seen many times, likely when returning home. Is that accurate?” (Dave agrees.)

“Great. Now, I’d like you to please imagine a purple elephant in a turquoise tutu. And I’m just referring to the color, by the way, turquoise, not the stone. It seems odd to me that a ballet tutu would have stones stitched into it, regardless of how pleasant the color. Okay, got it? I see you looking up and to your right, creating a visual image in your mind, right?” (Dave again agrees.)

“Nice, Dave. Okay, now please if you would consider what a mashup of heavy metal music and nails on a chalkboard might sound like…got it…and I know, ‘I don’t have to imagine it, that’s Slipknot!’ Alright, your eyes level, and to your right, Auditory Constructed. Does that sound right to you?” (Dave agreed, saying he had to imagine the two sounds together.)

“Thank you, Dave. Now I want you to think about your mother’s voice, calling you to dinner…great, I see your eyes remain level and move to your left, suggesting Auditory Remembered. You have an actual memory of that happening, don’t you?” (Dave confirmed this.)

“Very good, now Dave, I want to linger on that last question a moment. Your mother has called you to dinner, and I want you to imagine that you’re in the middle of something you really enjoy…surfing the web, playing a video game, chatting with friends, anything…and you don’t want to go down to dinner just yet. You know that if you don’t, your dad will come to get you and you don’t want that…but figure you may have a couple minutes before that happens…and you’re having such a great time…but then…how long do you have before Dad shows? Okay, what I’m seeing is your eyes moving first to the lower left, pausing, then to the lower right. That’s a compound movement, though I want to be careful and not guess. It could be that you attempted to use one representational system to have the thought, weren’t satisfied with the results and switched systems…it’s also possible that you used both, in sequence. I said I wouldn’t guess, but I’ve been doing great so far, four for four…so I’ll risk it. I think you had an internal debate over whether to stop what you were doing, as much fun as you were having, and go to dinner…or whether to continue just a while longer…and THEN…then you considered Dad banging on your door, and you had a strong kinesthetic response to that—as would I! Close or did I guess too much?”

Dave laughed and said, “That’s amazing. Honestly, that’s exactly what I experienced! Yes!”

“Fantastic. Did everyone see the things mentioned or did anyone see something different? Notice that the sensory acuity required to notice eye movements is crucial. As we continue practicing that, you’ll be looking for certain things…keep doing that and as you practice, this will become natural…The information, I like to say, is out there, not in our own heads. Paying attention pays rich dividends.

“Now I have to come clean with everyone…my questions led Dave. He didn’t have to follow, though he did, which made this demonstration more reliable. But remember, you won’t always be able to frame the question your subject is considering. More often, you will be gathering intelligence before any question has been asked or perhaps the subject was considering it before you became aware. So you won’t have the luxury of leading with the questions in most scenarios. That’s important because our purpose is to learn what’s going on inside someone and people are continuously offering such information without realizing it. You can’t wait until you have the opportunity to ask questions because that moment may not even come.

(An attendee raised a hand and when chosen, spoke:) “Wait, what about that last question…? That didn’t seem to me to be leading.”

“I get that, Mindy, in the last portion, it was not directly leading. But I instructed him to have an internal debate over what to do: Do as his mother asked or put her off in favor of the more fun activity. As an adult, I’m supposing that this isn’t an occurrence in Dave’s current life at this age. And the question before it, with his mother calling him to dinner, suggested an age regression. I did lead him to an internal dialog.”

“But what about the Kinesthetic?” Mindy said.

“Were you a kid who got in trouble a lot, Mindy?” Her eyes briefly darted up and to the left, and she said, “Absolutely not!”

“So expecting your dad to come to your room to get you for dinner might not elicit a particularly emotional response? A strong feeling?”

“No, I suppose not.”

“Great. But I just led Dave through disobeying his mom. She’s called him to dinner and he’s putting her off, and the tipping point is where his dad comes to get him and that might mean, what do you think? He could be in trouble? That’s my guess, too. So even the kinesthetic response is not at all surprising. I think it would still be a fair criticism that my demonstration wasn’t very scientific, that I led too much. Do you still disagree? Hey, it’s perfectly okay to see something different or assign different meanings to what you see. I just want to be fair and if my fairness is in question, I want to own up quickly and address it. Is it okay to leave it there for the moment?” (Mindy agreed.)

“Excellent discussion, everyone! Now in that spirit, I’m going to ask two more questions that are open-ended, or at least do not point to a particular sensory modality. We’ll see how good we really are at this when we can no longer be accused of leading our subject!

“Dave, just two more questions, please. First, please think about something at work, it could EITHER be something that’s actually happened, OR something you believe might. However, you want to access that information, whether constructed, digital, remembered—doesn’t matter. Go! Something at work…”

“Dave’s eyes went up and to the left. Does everyone agree? Okay, Dave, I believe you had a Visual Remembered experience—something that you actually saw. Am I right? And remember, as Mindy led the way, it is vital that if we don’t agree, we speak up. We want to explore everything we find relevant here.” (Dave said that yes, he was remembering an image of something that took place in the office a few days prior.)

“Thanks, Dave. One more. Would you please consider something you either enjoy or enjoyed, doesn’t matter which, doing with a close friend? Okay, I’m seeing Visual Constructed. Is that something that you want to do with a friend, but as yet have not?”

He furrowed his brow. “Now that you ask it that way, I’m confused. You got it right—I was picturing my buddy and me going fishing at the coast. We’re planning a trip for a few weeks from now. But then again, we’ve done that before. So I didn’t really have to construct it.”

“Awesome opportunity to learn! Guys, notice what Dave just shared. First of all, his eye accessing cues were accurate and we read them accurately. Why? Because what he actually did was construct a visual image. So that’s our criterion satisfied. But like As Seen on TV, But Wait, there’s MORE! There’s an old myth about NLP that “remembered” means truth, “constructed” means a lie. Remember what we’ve learned about Subjective Experience…it’s never that simple, never that ‘objective’. You may have driven home from work a thousand times, so if I asked you to imagine doing it now, you may not have to get too creative. But you are still being asked to construct the experience in the future. You may of course copy memories to do so, but your brain is clear that this is a new experience. It’s constructed. So everything Dave said makes sense. And it’s relevant to us because what we care about is what just happened in his awareness, how he accessed his neurology. And that for him was Visual Constructed, regardless of from where he drew the constituent pieces. Does this make sense to everyone? Nice!

“Now let’s expand our demonstration. We’re going to do the same thing, but in pairs, all of us. Let’s pair up—grab a partner—we’ve got an odd number, so as Dave’s already done it, he can sit out with me and observe. Good, everyone’s got a partner? Great The taller one between you will observe and then verify your observation, the less tall will just respond, silently, to my questions. I’m going to read off the same questions I asked Dave, and I want the responder to recognize: I’m asking this of YOU. Your task is to formulate/figure out the answer, not speak it aloud. You’ll know why in a moment… The other, the observer, will observe where the responder’s eyes went, determine which modality is referenced, and any other relevant information. For instance, if the responder’s eye accessing cues went to the Visual Remembered location, I want you to verify this with the responder. If it’s incorrect, please say so then raise your hand. I want to ask follow up questions to ensure we’re reading you correctly, and if so, if there’s something anomalous and interesting going on there!

“Okay, cool, let’s begin!”

During the exercise, the majority of attendees had predictable results. However one noted that the accessing cues were reversed, laterally. The person was one of three left-handers in the workshop, and the other two were not reversed. Once that person’s partner saw this, she merely adjusted her “reading” of the cues. This was a great opportunity to illustrate how too much reliance on a “technique” can lead us to dull our sensory acuity and our ability to calibrate. A balance between technique and awareness is always vital and that experience reinforced it for us.

We also had one student access cues so quickly, with such short duration, that his partner had difficulty reading them. With some practice, however, she managed to discern the accessing location.

In the final discussion, we all felt comfortable using this powerful tool to gain insight into the other person’s internal process and one attendee pointed out that it also educated him on how important sensory modality is in collecting and storing important information.

Copyright © 2013 Chris Gingolph

Leave a Reply