Using Access Words to Communicate, by John I. Mosher, PhD

Communication Help


by John I. Mosher, Ph.D. 
Professor Emeritus, State University of New York College at Brockport, N.Y.

Other articles by Dr. Mosher are at Guidelines for Life and Personal Growth

(Note by Andrew W. Saul:)  Dr. Mosher is one of the finest teachers that I have ever had the privilege to learn from.  Since 1971, he has been a major influence on my professional life, as well as being a most valued personal friend.  In addition to serving for 30 years as Professor of Biology at SUNY Brockport, Dr. Mosher was also my doctoral mentor. Even if you are not currently in a classroom, this article will be of interest.

Communication between instructor and students is probably the most important factor in teaching. The more effective the communication the more effective the instructing. Therefore any method which can improve the communication between instructor and student will improve the instruction.

The communication process begins with our perceptions. The senses, our contact points with the world, are like five doors which open to gather information about the world. The five senses (doors or windows) may be called representational systems. We all use all of them to gather information about our surroundings. But what has been found by neuro-linguistic practitioners is that each of us seem to trust one sense of perception more than the others. When we access information through our most "trusted" sense we tend to gather that information into our conscious mind and memory more readily. The syntonic model of neuro-linguistics is a technique which employs the fact that we humans have a most trusted sense, and in modified form can be used to improve communication in the classroom.

Drs. Bandler, Grinder and Satir have developed strategies for accessing another person's most trusted sense. Therefore communicating more effectively with that person. The technique for doing this which is most pertinent to lecturing a class, is to use words which will facilitate understanding of your message. Each person responds best to certain types of words, because these words access the person's most trusted sense. 

For example, if an individual thinks in pictures, visual words, like see, appear, look, inspect, etc. will access the visual person. This person will retain the written word better than the spoken.

An auditory person can best be accessed by sound words, like hear, state, talk, speak, etc., and will retain spoken better than written.

A person who is kinesthetic will respond best to feeling and texture words, such as feel, grasp, touch, etc., and will do best in active hands on experience.

The simplest way to apply this technique in a classroom situation is to weave into your instructive comments words that will access all three types of perceivers, because you most likely are dealing with a heterogenous group that includes some visual, some auditory, and some kinesthetic persons. A somewhat exaggerated example of a lecture statement using the syntonic model might be "now listen to what I say about fractions and you will see how easy it is. As you watch the example I put on the board (or look at the example in your book). You will get a feel of how fractions are multiplied."

Below is a listing of the access words used in the above example:
see, watch, look 

listen, say 

put, feel

At first, you may feel uncomfortable, or may think this technique distracting; but if you listen to what you usually say in lecture you may discover you are already using some of the key access words. The following is a partial list of predicate words:

VISUAL (see) 
analyze, angle, appear, aspect, bright, clarity, clear, cloud, delineated, demonstrate, discern, distinguish, dress-up, examine, expose, flash, focus, foresee, glance, glimpse, graphic, hindsight, horizon, idea, illusion, illustrate, image, inspect, look, obscure, observe, obvious, outlook, paint, perception, perspective, picture, pinpoint, preview, reveal, see, scene, scope, screen, scrutinize, shortsighted, show, sight, sketchy, spectacle, survey, notice, view, vision, vague, watch, witness 

AUDITORY (hear) 
accent, alarm,  amplify, announce, articulate, ask, audible, boisterous, click, communicate, compose, converse, discuss, dissonant, divulge, earshot, enunciate, gossip, growl, harmonize, hear, hush, inquire, interview, key, listen, loud, mention, muffle, noise, note, oral, proclaim, pronounce, rattle, remark, report, ring, roar, rumor, say, scream, screech, shout, shrill, silence, sing, sound, speak, speechless, squeal, state, static, talk, tell, tone, tune, voice 

active, affected, bearable, carry, callous, charge, concrete, crash, crawl, emotional, feel, finger, firm, flow, foundation, grab, grasp, grip, grope, haggle, hanging, hassle, heated, hit, hold, hunch, impact, impress, intuition, irritate, lukewarm, motion, muddled, panicky, pressure, rub, rush, sensitive, set, shallow, sharpen, shock, smash, solid, sore, stir, stress, strike, stroke, structured, support, tangible, tap, tension, throw, tired, touch, unbearable, unsettled, whipped

Also, to supplement and reinforce spoken lecture material utilize visual aids such as blackboard, slides, movies, film strips, models, and kinesthetic aids ("hands on" experience) whenever possible in your teaching. You will then be accessing as much as possible the three senses most commonly used in classroom learning.

Keep in mind the first basic step in achieving good communication is deciding on intended outcome.

To better achieve your outcome, think in terms of what you would see happen if your desired outcome occurred, and describe to yourself the feeling you expect when your outcome is obtained.

It is essential to be sure those with whom you intend to communicate have similar expectations in outcome to yours. In order to be sure that outcomes "dove tail" (that yours and theirs match) it is important to establish rapport. This is done by laying a foundation of trust. If the students know that you are on their side, and want them to do well, and see that you are sensitive to them as human beings, and will listen to them, then you have established trust.

Keep in mind that it is important to build the student's confidence. Being consistent is one way of doing this. Surprise exams, testing on material not thoroughly covered do not build confidence, but may build distrust and resentment. By having patience and sensitivity and using access words and techniques you will see a positive evolution occur and feel good that you have articulated a method using these communication strategies.


Bandler, R. & Grinder, J. (1979) Frogs Into Princes. Moab, Ut., Real People Press. 

Bandler, Grinder, J. & Sativ, V. (1976) Changing With Families. Palo Alto, Science & Behavior Books.

Bays, Dr. Robert (1985) Neuro-linguistic work shop I attended conducted by Dr. Bays.

Blanchard, K. & Johnson, S. (1982) One Minute Manager. New York, Wm. Morrow Co. 

Cameron-Bandler, L. (1978) They Lived Happily Ever After. Cupertino, CA., Meta Pub. Co. 

Laborde, G.Z. (1984) Influencing With lnteqrity. Palo Alto, Syntony Pub. Co. 

Satir, V. (1972) Peoplemaking. Palo Alto, Science & Behavior Books, 

Satir, V. (1986) I attended a two day workshop conducted by Dr. Satir, Fall 1986.

(Reprinted with the permission of the author.)

Andrew W. Saul

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