top of page

Understanding Communication and Learning Styles

Understand more about communication and learning styles. Download and complete a self-assessment questionnaire to help you identify your own preferred style.


We all have our own preferred ways to communicate and learn. Understanding this can be an important part of improving the effectiveness of how you communicate with both yourself and others and also how you take on board information and learn. We communicate and learn via our internal representation systems or modalities, which are terms often used in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) or in other words our senses:

  • Visual (pictures)

  • Auditory (sounds)

  • Kinaesthetic (feelings)

  • Olfactory (smells)

  • Gustatory (tastes)

Generally speaking, we will use the first 3 of these senses, in varying degrees, depending on individual preferences, to communicate and learn - particularly in Western culture. Throughout this article we will refer to these 3 senses as VAK (Visual, Auditory & Kinaesthetic).

Complete our self-assessment quiz to see what your preferences may be. You can then read and learn a bit more about VAK and how you can be more self-aware about your own preferences and those of others.

The quality of your communication is the quality of your life. - Tony Robbins

Download the VAK Self-assessment

Download the excel file below and follow the instructions to complete the VAK self-assessment questionnaire and understand your own preferred communication and learning styles.

Doing the self-assessment at this point may help to give you an understanding and appreciation of your own preferences and perceptions, as you read through the rest of this article.

If you are already a member of the Tribero online community you can access this activity in the Templates and Activities file in the Resources section of the MEMBERS AREA.

Log in or register at or click on the button below.

What is your preferred style?




About VAK Communication and Learning Styles

What is a Learning Style?

Communication and learning styles refer to a person’s preferred way to take in, process, understand and remember information. Psychologists initially developed this learning style model way back in the 1920's, although lots of work and study has been done more recently to build on the original model with research showing a better appreciation and understanding of what is meant by the 3 styles.

The VAK learning style uses the three main sensory receivers: visual, auditory and kinaesthetic (movement) to determine the dominant learning style. Everyone uses all three styles as they process and learn. However, according to the theory, a person will have a strong preference toward one or two dominant styles.


They prefer pictures and will say things like . . . "I see what you mean".

Tend to look up when thinking and processing information.


They like to hear things said, often pictures not enough, and will sometimes repeat back what they have heard. They might say . . . "I hear what you say"

Tend to look to the side when thinking.


Tend to be more in touch with their feelings and like to be hands on when learning. They will say things like . . . "something doesn't feel right".

Tend to look down when thinking about their response.

Learning Styles and Eye Movement Patterns

There are certain studies and practices that suggest we can get clues about which style someone prefers by their eye movement patterns when they are thinking.

Eye accessing cues in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) are movements of the eyes in certain directions that indicate visual, auditory or kinaesthetic thinking. Neuro Linguistic Programming teaches us that people make movements with their eyes (Eye Accessing Cues) that will indicate which representational system (or learning style) they are using and prefer.

VISUAL (Look up)



​(look up)

​(look to the side)

​(look down)

Learning Styles and Descriptive Language

Below, are some examples of the types of descriptive language that you may notice yourself or other people using.

Visual style language

  • I get the picture

  • I see what you mean

  • Let’s get this into perspective

  • It appears that

  • Show me

  • The focus of attention

  • Looking closely

  • A blind spot

  • It’s clear to me

  • A different angle

  • You’ll look back on this

  • Step back and see the big picture

Auditory style language

  • That rings a bell

  • We’re on the same wavelength

  • Let’s talk about it

  • Within earshot

  • Let’s sound this out

  • I’m speechless

  • Shout from the hilltops

  • People will hear you

  • The silence was deafening

  • Singing from the same hymn sheet

  • Word for word

  • In a manner of speaking

  • There was an undertone

Kinaesthetic style language

  • He’s thick-skinned

  • A cool customer

  • I grasp the meaning

  • A heated argument

  • I will be in touch

  • I can’t put a finger on it

  • We are scratching the surface

  • Let’s dig deeper, get a grip

  • A lukewarm attitude

  • I feel it in my bones

  • It just doesn’t feel right

  • I have a strange sensation

  • My gut feeling

Learning Style Tendencies

The VAK model is popular because it is intuitive and simple to use and recognise certain tendencies specific to what the preferred style is.

Visual Learners: There are two kinds of visual learners that are often recognised, known as; 'visual-linguistic' and 'visual spatial'.

Visual-Linguistic (VL) learners tend to:

  • Learn through written language such as reading and writing

  • More likely to remember tasks if they write them down, even if they don’t go back to read them again

Visual-Spatial (VS) learners tend to:

  • Have difficulty with written language and do better with diagrams, demonstrations, videos, maps, colorful charts and visual aids

  • A VS tends to gaze into ‘space’ in the middle of a conversation (much to a spouse’s or a teacher’s dismay) to ‘picture’ what is being said (this can appear disrespectful to other learning styles)

  • Find it easy to visualise faces and places

  • Recall conversations based on where it happened

  • Easily get distracted

  • Often choose to sit in the front of the class room

Auditory Learners tend to:

  • Enjoy listening but can’t wait to talk. Talk to themselves a lot. Move their lips while reading as well as read out loud

  • Learn best when they hear their own voice. This is why they vocalise in the middle of a class, meeting or movie

  • Struggle with reading and writing tasks

  • Remember names, but not the face or appearance of someone they just met

  • Talk ‘a mile a minute’ and expect others to drop everything to make eye contact to listen to them

  • Sounds distract them

  • Interpret the underlying meanings of speech through listening to tone of voice, pitch, speed and other nuances. A raised voice might be an argument to them, but just ‘a discussion’ to those with a different style

  • Sometimes remember things by setting information to a tune or rhyme

Kinesthetic Learners tend to:

  • Learn by being involved, touching and/or moving

  • Remember what was done rather than what was said or seen

  • Have to move in order to concentrate

  • Be easily distracted during a visual or auditory presentation. Will take notes so they can move their hands

  • Need to know the big picture first before getting the details

  • Having the space to draw pictures, doodle, shake their leg and fidget while you communicate helps them hear and learn more effectively

  • Use gestures when speaking and stand close when speaking or listening

  • Often they are poor spellers and will write words to determine if they "feel" right

  • Tend to drive visual learners crazy with their constant movement.

  • Attack problems and express frustration physically – they’re your door slammers and fist pounders.


The VAK model helps us to better appreciate the preferred and varied styles of learning and communicating. Although a simplistic approach to a relatively very complex level of a particular aspect of human behaviour, we can use it to appreciate the differences that people (and ourselves) have, so we can help people learn and communicate more effectively with us and with others.

And always important to remember . . . most people can use all of the VAK but will tend to have a stronger preference for one or two.

3 things to consider

1. Do you recognise your preferred style in your day-to-day communications or learning preferences? 2. How will it help you to communicate with yourself, and help you take on board information and learn? 3. How will what you have learned in this article help you better communicate with others in the future?

Article by Trevor Norman

Trevor is a leadership coach and cognitive behavioural therapist and specialises in organisational behavioural analytics and team dynamics. He is a Certified Master NLP Practitioner.

22 views0 comments


bottom of page