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Harrison Barnes Are You Visual, Auditory–or Kinesthetic?

By Harrison Barnes  Follow Me on Twitter
You have probably heard before that people tend to be visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. In my experience, this is true and it is something you can generally pick up on within just a few minutes of meeting the average person. Understanding whether or not you are one or the other is something that can help you understand what sort of work you should be doing, the sorts of people you should be working with, the people you should be spending your time with, and the type of environment that will make you happy. In addition, you will make decisions and reach conclusions differently, depending on whether you are visual, auditory, or kinesthetic.

Throughout the average day, we are making hundreds of decisions about various things. Most of the decisions we make are not based on pure analysis but, instead, on how we perceive and interpret the world. A good part of this perception is based on whether or not we are primarily visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. When various concepts and ideas “make sense” to us, why they make sense is often outside of our conscious understanding–they just do.
  • People who are visual tend to act based on representations of how things “look” and “appear”. When visual people speak, they say things like “it looks like” or “it appears” or “as I see it”. Their descriptions of the world and of their experiences tend to be based on how things look, and not how they feel or sound.
  • People who are auditory tend to act based on representations they make to themselves about how things “sound” to them. They would be more likely to say they “hear what you are saying” than they “see what you are saying”, for example.
  • People who are kinesthetic tend to act based on how things “feel” to them. When they speak to you, they will talk about things like “sensing” and “feeling” and “getting in touch” with various concepts before making decisions.
I have always loved meeting architects and various designer types of people. One of the reasons is that it is fascinating to see how they shape everything from their clothing, to their offices, to the interior of their homes–all to evoke a certain visual sort of image. Even something as simple as a notebook, or a pen, of a design sort of person will have been picked out for the sort of visual image that it presents.

I remember several years ago, we were redesigning an office with an interior designer, and we brought along a graphic designer with us to meet the interior designer. After the meeting, the graphic designer commented to me:

“I wish you had told me about this meeting beforehand so I could have dressed differently.”

“What are you talking about?”

“If I’d known about this meeting I would have worn more designer-appropriate clothes. Designers judge each other based on how they look, and the sorts of clothes they wear.”

When you speak to people in the design world, they typically think and talk in images. When they walk into a room, they can picture how things will look if the room is redesigned, repainted, and certain types of furniture are put into it. This is simply not the sort of thing that I can do, but someone who is very visual has this skill, and for him or her, it is a gift.

Visual people:
  • like to see charts and other visual representations of things such as pictures, videos, and so forth;
  • are motivated by how things look, and consider appearance of people, places and situations to be highly important.
When I was growing up, I lived next to some neighbors that I liked, but who were quite slovenly and never watched their weight or appearance. I remember one day a friend of my mother’s was visiting and he said something to me that I will never forget:

“Why would you be friends with them? They do not watch their appearance enough!”

This seems like a shallow and strange thing to say to a 12-year-old kid that is friends with the other neighborhood kids. This person was extremely concerned with his appearance, was always dressed perfectly, got his car washed frequently, and kept a very neat home. There are many people like this, who are very visual, and appearances run their lives in many respects.

While designers tend to be visual, of course, people who are visual can still do any sort of job. However, people who think visually are more likely to be persuaded about various things if they are shown “how it looks”, and are described how something appears, rather than “how it feels” or “how it sounds.”

For example, a visual person purchasing a car will be interested in a car that looks good. The salesperson would be wise to have all sorts of pictures of the car to give the prospective purchaser, and would spend a lot of time allowing the person to look at the car. The car should be described to the person in a manner that the person can clearly and easily visualize.

At work, someone who is visual should be shown demonstrations about how work should be done, so he or she can visualize it. Graphs, diagrams, and visual procedures are all helpful to a visual person.

A few years ago, I had someone working for me, who, in contrast to a visually oriented sort of person, was very auditory. In fact, he was a musician, who had long hair and was completely unconcerned with his appearance. Since most musicians are more auditory, they often tend to be less concerned with their appearances than visually oriented sorts of people. They are more interested in sounds, tonality, and the like.

Auditory people:
  • like to be around people, places, and things that have pleasant voices or sounds;
  • get very agitated by loud and unpleasant sounds;
  • focus on the sounds of an experience, more so than the visual or kinesthetic stimuli.
If you were selling a car to an auditory person, they would be very focused on how the car sounded. They would be interested in the clicks and so forth inside of the car, the sound of the exhaust and so forth. I know an auditory person quite well, and I recall that when this person purchased a car some time ago, he told me all about the sounds the car made, such as the thud of the door, the click of the turn signal, and how quiet the cabin was. These are the sorts of things that auditory people are interested in.

Auditory people can be stimulated to shop, for example, by hearing soft music playing in the background. They are attracted to a person quite often based on the tone of his or her voice, just as much as they are attracted to how the person looks. They tend to speak in metaphors that are auditory in nature such as how something “sounds”, and often say things like “I hear that” and so forth.

At work, auditory sorts of people want to “hear” about how to do the job, and preferably they want to hear this in a pleasant voice. The auditory person wants to “hear” what others have said about certain parts of the job, and getting him or her to do certain tasks will often be more effective when the person can repeat the task out loud and form an internal auditory representation of the task.

Kinesthetic people are more motivated by how various things “feel” to them than by how they look or sound. The kinesthetic person will gravitate towards people, places, and things that “feel good” to them, and will be motivated to stay away from various people, places, and things that do not feel good to them.

Kinesthetic people:
  • like physical contacts such as hugs, handshakes, and so forth;
  • are motivated typically by the physical feeling something gives them, more than by how it looks or sounds to them;
  • thrive on the feeling of movement, and bodily sensation.
If you were trying to sell a kinesthetic person a car, it would be important to let them demonstrate the car by taking it for a test drive. They would want to see “how it feels” behind the wheel, for example. A good salesperson would also discuss the car in terms of how it will make the person feel, such as calm or excited, and so forth. Shaking the hand of the kinesthetic person would also typically be very effective at helping sell the product to him or her.

At work, kinesthetic people typically prefer to “get a sense” of what they are supposed to do. They may need to “feel it” before doing a task, and are going to have more internal reasons for doing a job, rather than relying on demonstrations or descriptions. Sensory based people will do a task when they “have a sense” of it and “it feels right”.

Understanding whether you are more visual, auditory, or kinesthetic, is something that is relevant to your work style, career, and life. For example, you are likely to communicate better with mates, bosses, and so forth if you share this information about yourself. You are likely to understand information better if it is presented in such a way that you can absorb it, based on a specific communication style. Understanding your approach to information will also make you more successful in everything and with everyone you deal with.

THE LESSON

People tend to be either visual, auditory, or kinesthetic; your own identity as one of these three things can determine much about your life, from the people with whom you get along to the environment in which you are most comfortable. People base most of their decisions upon their perceptions, which in turn depend on which of these three orientations they are. To succeed, you should not mix motivations among individuals.


If this article has helped you in some way, will you say thanks by sharing it through a share, like, a link, or an email to someone you think would appreciate the reference.



Our CEO A Harrison Barnes To your success,

Harrison Barnes

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