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Notice How People Make Decisions

by Frances Coombes(more info)

listed in nlp, originally published in issue 185 - August 2011

Notice How People Make Decisions
One of the most useful skills you can develop is that of noticing how people make their decisions. It may be the steps leading to them buying a new product, changing their job, electing a new prime minister or choosing a restaurant meal. If you can identify people’s thinking and behaviour patterns in advance, you can determine or influence how they make their choices in the future.

You can use this questioning for any actions people take. It may be how they decided to change a job, buy a new car or computer. Or if you are in business you might want to know how people choose a restaurant meal, and use the information you gather to attract more customers to your restaurant for a meal?

How People Make Choices
People tend to be consistent about where they store types of images and information in their mind’s eye. They tend to look up when they are imagining pictures. They look down when they are experiencing feelings and remembering past events. They may look from side to side when they are imaging sounds, either people talking or talking to themselves. They may even hang their head to one side so they hear better in one ear.

To increase your level of awareness about how people make a choice, notice the language they are using: whether they employ visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, smelling, or tasting words

Talk to at least six people and ask them how they chose their last restaurant meal and record their answers.


The Process: Ask them what is the first sensation they are aware of as they start to think of food and make their choice.

What was their process of choosing? Get them to take you through the steps up to the point they made their decision.

Notice Sensory Language: Did they get a feeling first that told them they were hungry? Did they see their food in their mind’s eye? Did they talk to themselves and run through each dish in turn, imagining tasting it? Build up a whole sensory sequence for how they made their choice

Was their language mainly: visual (describing what they were seeing); auditory (describing what they were saying to themselves); kinaesthetic: (giving a sense of how they were feeling about the experience)?

Identify The Trigger: Where did their trigger that told them ‘yes, this is the meal I want’, begin: Was it with a feeling/ a smell/ a taste / a picture / something they said to themselves before taking the action?

What was their Trigger Point: how did they flip from indecision to having made up their mind.

How Might this Information be Useful?

Appeal to the Senses

  • People tend to run patterns of behaviours in similar situations. If you know how they behave in one situation, you can predict how they are likely to behave in a similar situation in the future. To attract Visual diners, display bright pictures of what the feed will look like. To appeal to auditory diners, have menus that that give sensuous and appetizing descriptions of the meals, so that they can imagine tasting them. To attract the touchy feelies, have lighting and décor that creates a warm and inviting atmosphere;
  • 59% of the population lead with their visual sense. They filter for what ‘looks good’ to them, 39% lead with their feelings, they get a feeling first and then look for other information to back it up. 13% of the population lead with their auditory senses, they need to see information described in sensory words, so they can imagine the associated pictures and tastes. You are losing a very big share of your market if you appeal only to visual diners.

If you want to attract visual, auditory and kinaesthetic diners then ensure your restaurant meets the criteria for all sensory preferences.


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About Frances Coombes

Frances Coombes Advanced Dip CBT/REBT Dip CBT offers one-to-one therapeutic coaching in North West London and on Zoom.  She is a is a CBT/REBT psychotherapist in North West London, a NLP Master Practitioner and Rational Emotional Behaviour Therapist and runs life coaching groups in London and on Zoom.  She teaches NLP at The City Lit in Central London and tutors at the City Lit and Mary Ward Centre in central London on Using REBT for Managing Stress and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). She runs goal setting and REBT coaching groups for vulnerable people for inner London authorities and charities.  

Her most recent book is Motivate Yourself and Reach Your Goals, pub, November 2013, Hodder Headline. Available on and  For extract visit To inquire or book personal development courses contact Frances on Tel: 07818 896 795; 


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