VAK for Qualitative Researchers

I am a fidget pot – I can’t sit still, I want to be on the go. I’m kinaesthetic. If you have one of me in your focus group, work with or present to a Kinaesthetic you will need to ensure you keep them interested because they have a low boredom threshold. They want short bites, something they can respond to and the opportunity to get involved. You need to incorporate exercises for them, keep sections short and introduce breaks or break out sessions.


I’m not terribly visual so don’t invite me to a focus group on packaging or expect me to sit and look at your endless slides and I won’t be very good at putting together a great presentation.

I am rather more auditory so I can speak for ages perfectly happily so I’ll enjoy a focus group or a face to face interview but I will probably give up quite quickly on an online survey.

So how do we use this?

Firstly be aware of what you are. What are your strengths ? Are they visual, auditory or kinaesthetic. A good team will be a mix of all three. You will have access to all three but have a preference. Be aware of what it is and maybe get someone to help you in your areas of weakness and their strengths.

If you have a focus group where the focus is going to be quite visual, device a recruitment questionnaire to pick out people who are going to be most useful to you. If you want to have a good discussion and it’s a long one go for auditory respondents. If you want to connect with motivation and feelings get kinaesthetics but keep it short.

When you’re talking with clients or colleagues be aware of the words they’re using. Words like look, imagine, envisage, project, appearance etc are visual. Listen, hear, sound, talk, discuss are auditory. Do, get, understand, grasp, achieve, hold –  these are kinaesthetic. By matching their internal preference you will make a good connection. They will think you are like them and people do business with people like them.

Match their tone of voice, their pitch, pace, sound as much like them as you can. It might sound strange to you but remember it will be normal to them. It’s you that is different when you do groups up north and sound like a southerner. Ideally send someone who sounds like them you’ll get a better connection.

Match the body language, how they move their arms, their head. A visual person talks really fast as they try to access all those images in their head. The pitch is quite high and they look up and around a lot. An auditory person looks to the side , talks slowly and carefully with each word carefully chosen. Their pitch is lower than the visual person. They prefer to call you rather than email. There may not be pauses and they don’t like to be interrupted. A kinaesthetic person also talks slowly but with some animation and hand movement. They look down as if accessing their feelings which are around the belly area. Avoid facing them square on belly to belly as this will come across to them as quite threatening. Approach sideways and if appropriate, touch elbow or arm to make good contact. They will tend to be kissers and huggers so be ready with your air kiss!  They want face to face meetings and want to be doing something, a walking meeting suits them best.

If you’re a sole operator this information may be useful because if you’re visual your work environment needs to look attractive. If you’re auditory you will need an undisturbed quiet place to work and people to talk to when you need a break. If you’re kinaesthetic choose a ball chair or make sure you have plenty of breaks built into your day such as a gym class or a run at lunchtime.


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