Submodalities in Reading

In spoken NLP the idea is to figure out people’s preferred submodalities (visual, auditory, etc) and then craft your language to match that.

In writing, unless you’re writing a therapeutic metaphor for an individual, you don’t know the preferred submodalities of your readers. How do you deal with that?

Does the modality of reading matter? Initially I’d thought reading was an entirely visual experience. Someone suggested that it was auditory because people say the words in their heads as they read. I argued that I didn’t say the words because I speed read.

I’ve heard it said that the mind can process something like 20,000 words a minute but most people are limited in their reading speed by their speaking speed.

So perhaps it’s a synethesic activity. That’s where you use multiple submodalities concurrently without being able to separate them out. When I was learning to speed read, that was the trick… to be able to stop saying the words in your head.

What’s this have to do with marketing?

Well, if you want to match your reader’s submodality, it probably includes a visual component so you can use that language. Would that look right? See what I mean?

Each market segment is different though. Maybe most CEOs (for example) favor kinesthetic messages… words that pack a punch, feel right and explode your profits.

The only way to know is to test it. Test using each submodality together and separately. If you’re multivariate testing you’ll eventually figure out the best mix.

Does that ring true? What do you think?

3 Responses

  1. Yes Louis confusing isn’t it. Like you I think that everyone has their favourite modalities and sub modalities, but as the man once said you can’t please all the people all the time :o)

  2. Saying that the modality of reading is visual is nonsense. It would be the same as saying that the modality of hearing or listening is auditory.

    If it were so, hypnotists wouldn’t be able to lead their clients into intense kinesthetic experiences just by using their voice.

    Use your words in writing in the same way a hypnotist uses his words in speaking: to lead your reader where you want him to go, preferably to an exquisite place where (s)he can realize now that something apparently complex, behind the curtain, becomes very simple.

  3. Steve,

    Yes, of course the activity of reading doesn’t have it’s own modality. The question is if we can determine the most prevalent modality of people engaged in a certain activity at a given time. If so, then we can use that modality to build rapport just like the hypnotist.

    Even if we can figure it out, the most prominent modality might change for different demographics. Do more guitar players tend to prefer auditory sub modalities in relation to their playing?

    Personally, I’ve noticed that I prefer one modality over another for certain activities. In playing soccer I prefer to hear my teammates call for the ball rather than do a 360 degree sweep of the field. But then if you’re giving me verbal directions, I need to make a picture in my head of the landmarks or left and right turns or I won’t remember it.

    In writing, you can use sub modalities or not. The idea is that you realize that’s another thing to test.

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