NLP Sensory Acuity


In NLP Sensory acuity is probably the most impressive skill to demonstrate, aside maybe for a good handshake induction. It's a skill that is central to NLP - try gaining a good understanding of a clients situation, or manage an in-depth strategy elicitation without having good sensory acuity and see how far you get!

But NLP sensory acuity seems very much a black art.

Most people experiments with sensory acuity start with two simple elements – eye accessing cues and breath matching for rapport.

Practicing these skills whilst interacting with people in everyday life is probably the best place to start.

The more you watch for eye accessing cues, the more you'll begin to pick up on other information. If you watch someone and get a hunch then don’t be afraid to ask the person whether you were right. For instance you may start to become aware of more complex patterns such as someone accessing an image then saying something in their head. The amount of information available is quite staggering once you start to tune in to it.

Below is a list of some of the elements that you may start to notice during your sensory acuity experiments:


  • Position and Distance of internal images, along with size.
  • Whether an image is moving or not.
  • Occasionally you may actually have the sense of shape or color.
  • Association/Disassociation - see physical movements below.
  • Pupil Dilation - which usually signifies attraction. A good pointer for those people interested in using NLP for Seduction!


  • Direction internal voices come from.
  • You may feel that you are aware of the sounds or words.


  • Watch for skin color change as a general sign of relaxation.
  • Watch for hand gestures. Often they imply the person is interacting with the image they are accessing.
  • If someone is accessing a feeling they may give away the feelings 'movement' with their hands.

Physical Movements

Many years ago I embarrassed a girl by asking her to remember an enjoyable experience and then telling her more about it than she had anticipated. The memory was a sexual one and I told her not only that it was a memory of a sexual experience, but I also told her what sexual position her and her partner were in. She was not impressed.

The key to this 'mind-read' was her movement and posture. To associate into the memory she had to tense the muscles she was using at the time. A very slight tightening of her thighs and arching of her back - if I remember rightly - gave me all the information I needed. Alas, due to my lack of tack, I think that was the last time she ever looked me in the eye!

Practicing and Improving Sensory Acuity

The key with NLP sensory acuity is to stay relaxed. Don’t try to watch someone, ask your questions and relax. Allowing your eyes to defocus is of huge benefit too, especially for spotting movement.

If you ever get the chance engage a blind person in conversation and watch them (please use some sensitivity here). Once I was walking along the street and saw someone ask a blind person for directions (I assume they didn't know they were blind when they asked the question and were then too embarrassed to say anything!). For me, watching the blind person give directions was very enlightening. He made absolutely huge images in his mind and used his hands to shape them, almost knocking over the lost person in the process.

The best way to develop your skills is to either try a bit of strategy elicitation, or to ask people questions that will make them access certain types of memories and see if the results are as you'd expect.

See if you can work out someones timeline during a conversation. Work out where they visualize their beliefs or their good decisions.

How far can you go with NLP Sensory Acuity?

This is a controversial one, but on many occasions I have suddenly known exactly what image someone is making. I have also occasionally been aware of the words someone said in their head. I tend not to tell strangers about either of these events, for obvious reasons.

The best demonstration I have ever seen of NLP sensory acuity was by Sid Jacobson many years ago who gave a demonstration of NLP Sensory acuity where he asked someone about their car. He managed to tell them that the image was of the car side on (rather then another angle or associated), that the image was moving, and that the car was red! Sid was also the person who taught me about using physical movements for memory access.

So keep practicing and please post any great NLP sensory acuity moments on this page!