The “Communication Paradox:” How Little You Know About Life’s Most Important Skill Reply

Part I:  Communicating Through Our Senses

by Chris Simmons

From birth to death, our five senses play central roles in our lives. They impact everything, from how we learn, to how we communicate. Yet most people have never considered the extent to which the language of the senses is embedded in how we communicate. As a result, the easiest and fastest way to increase your rapport with others – and thereby your influence – is to listen carefully and identify the sense in which they are communicating and then respond to them in their current sense-based channel.

All five senses pervade our vocabulary, but words and phrases associated with sight, sound, and touch are the most common. Additionally, the primary sense a person will use in verbal and written exchanges will change throughout the day based on their mood and other influences. As such, the importance of carefully listening/reading cannot be overstated.

For examples of sensory-flavored conversations, imagine these discussions:


1: “So, how do you picture this playing out?  What’s your vision to get everyone working together? Given the personalities involved, I don’t see this having any chance of succeeding.”

2:  “I see what you’re saying, but we don’t have a choice. We need everyone to buy-in and focus on making this merger work. Let’s come up with a rough plan that we can show the key stake holders tomorrow.”


3:  “If I understood the voicemail, it sounds to me like the realtor said we she’ll waive the points and closing fees if we can close on the house within two weeks.”

4:  “That would be music to my ears, but I’ll wait until I hear it directly from her.


5: “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

6: “Dad, shhhh.  Stop trying to push my buttons. This is hard enough without you being a jerk. So just lighten up….please.”

Interesting Factoid:  When a divorced person is asked about their failed marriage, they generally respond from a touch (i.e., feeling) perspective.


7. “That left a really bad taste in my mouth, but I need this job so I’ll just have to choke it down.”

8.  “That was a bitter pill to swallow. I couldn’t do it. I would have quit.”


9. “The stench of failure is all over the project that John just inherited. They had originally tried to give it to me, but something about it smelled fishy, so I weaseled out of it.

10. “I know, it reeks worse than skunk road kill.”

To recap, you can increase your rapport and influence with virtually everyone with whom you interact by simply responding in the same sense-based language.

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