Stop smoking and lose weight Hypnotherapy and Neuro-Linguistic Programming: Oakland, East Bay, Berkeley, Richmond Jan Saeger: smoking cessation, weight control, San Francisco Bay Area, East Bay
Eliminate anxiety, fear, phobias

Markova stacks, part 5:
How to utilize Markova stacks

Summary: How to utilize 6 natural patterns of human intelligence that influence the way you and your clients think, learn, and communicate. Index to article.

Utilizing Markova patterns

Once you have elicited someone's Markova stack, you can use it for

  • Trance work: Use language that progresses through the modalities in a conscious -> subconscious -> unconscious sequence to get people into a deep trance. Reverse the sequence to bring them out of trance.
  • Creating rapport: Start interacting using the person's conscious modality. With a KVA or KAV person, you might use kinesthetic language, discuss feelings, perhaps touch them or walk with them. Once in rapport, switch to their subconscious modality. Finally, get rapport using their unconscious modality. This creates the sense that you appreciate and "get" them at every level.
  • Persuasion and seduction: This also uses the conscious -> subconscious -> unconscious (C -> S -> U) sequence. It works well for one-on-one persuasion, and for couples in the sexual doldrums. Markova's delightful example of the latter, with a VAK, involved communicating first how she looked ("I'm noticing the little golden hairs on your cheek."), then singing and reciting poetry, then touching while continuing to speak to her to keep her auditory subconscious mind from wandering.
  • Metaphors: Gradually shift the predicates and descriptions, following the person's C -> S -> U sequence. Use elements described in their least conscious modality to emphasize similarities between the person and the metaphor.
  • If possible, communicate the metaphor using the person's least conscious modality. Tell it to an auditorily unconscious person, but have a visually unconscious person read it. 1  For kinesthetically and visually unconscious people, nonverbal (contextual) implications — which Erickson used with great success — can also work very powerfully. 2 

    Many people who use auditory for unconscious processing have great difficulty listening to extended abstract speech, such as long explanations or lectures. Instead, explain the content using stories and metaphors, which these people find compelling. Include enough detail to evoke pictures and feeling states, and vary your body language, gestures, and voice tone to match. You may also need to slow your delivery somewhat — if the person's eyes glaze over, you are going too fast, talking too abstractly, or both.

  • Creating confusion: Ask the person to do something in their unconscious modality that requires using a more conscious modality. (Ask an auditorily unconscious person to use words to describe what they see: "Make a word picture of what you're thinking.") Or overwhelm them with a lot of input in the unconscious modality, delivered quickly and ambiguously. Use Milton Model language, or ambiguous behavior such as the handshake induction or eye defocusing.
  • You can also use confusion to create an "Aha!" experience. Create or elicit confusion, then explain how to resolve the confusion using the language of the person's unconscious modality. When they act confused, repeat your explanation using the language of their subconscious modality. At this point they will usually have a conscious insight.

    Insight often involves a progression from unconscious to subconscious to conscious. Or the person may start consciously, go to the unconscious to do pattern recognition, and then return to conscious awareness (C -> S -> U -> S -> C). You can frame questions to presuppose the person's most effective insight sequence. For a VAK, you might say, "Get a feel for it, sound it out to yourself, and when you are ready, show me what you've got, okay?"

  • Learning: Use your C -> S -> U sequence to learn easily. If auditory is your unconscious modality, prepare for a lecture by reading or doing something related. During the talk, do something that activates your more conscious modalities (sketching, taking notes, knitting, pacing the back of the room). This keeps the words from putting you to sleep, and lets you filter and prioritize the information coming in so your unconscious doesn't get overwhelmed trying to process everything. Activating your subconscious modality helps bridge between conscious and unconscious modalities, improving your memory and understanding.
  • Teaching: People generally explain most easily using their own C -> S -> U sequence. As an AKV, I tend to say, do, and then show. In the U.S., where conscious auditory is rare, this mismatches most people's learning strategies. Instead use the other person's C -> S -> U sequence to set the order in which they see, hear, and experience.
  • When teaching a mixed-stack group, teach in all modalities, and vary their sequence. For instance, move around while lecturing, use a flip chart to illustrate what you say, and frequently get the audience to check inside or notice body sensations. Vary your voice tone, tempo, and facial expression, and use visual, auditory, and kinesthetic predicates and examples. Sequence the training to include a mix of lectures, visuals or demonstrations, and experiences. Encourage people to get up and walk around on breaks and during appropriate exercises. NLP trainer Tim Hallbom, who seems particularly good at keeping all of a group engaged and learning effectively, uses these techniques masterfully. 3 

  • Adapting NLP processes: Change modalities to match how the person processes information. For instance, the NLP strategy for remembering names, which uses a picture of a person's face and name, didn't help me because as an AKV, I needed conscious access to sound. Once I learned to hear the person saying their name as I recognized their face, I had a strategy that worked.
  • When NLP processes don't work, it's often because the shifts aren't getting into the unconscious modality, and hence into the unconscious mind. That sometimes happens when the person does a process in their conscious modality only. So a visually conscious client may be least likely to get shifts from visualizing. Either have them create a synesthesia that incorporates another modality, or guide them in a process based on auditory or kinesthetics, such as metaphor or the Dancing S.C.O.R.E. 4 

    Activating the middle modality is usually enough to bridge over to the unconscious, but if not, do some work in the unconscious modality directly.

    If changes won't go or don't stick, check the person's representations in their unconscious sensory system. You'll often find the strongest problem drivers there, outside their conscious awareness.

    You can also supply input for the unconscious system — sound effects for A unconscious, or gestures or drawings for V unconscious. Touch a K unconscious person on a public place like the back of their hand, have them walk around, or get them to do something you know will trigger a feeling state.

Future developments: switching the stack

Markova stack strongly influences what people can do well. Auditorily unconscious people tend to have difficulty doing public speaking. Visually unconscious people like me typically spell poorly and don't write much. 5  Wouldn't it be nice auditory unconscious people could switch their stacks for lecturing and teaching workshops, and I could switch mine for writing articles?

We now have two methods for doing this, and are searching for more. 6  Since different Markova stacks optimize different talent sets, the ability to flip stacks voluntarily may allow you to develop a fuller range of capabilities than ever before possible. Imagine adapting your mental processing style to the task and situation! You might match someone's stacking to increase rapport, or mismatch to stimulate each other and bring your intelligences to bear in different ways.


Markova stacks provide more precise ways to utilize the modality distinctions of NLP. Understanding the patterns of specific processing styles gives you the ability to precisely tailor your communications. It also helps you understand what you yourself need to function well, and to flourish. We invite you to go forth and prosper mightily.

— Jan "yon" Saeger and W. Keppel
© 2004, some rights reserved
posted July 2004
Creative Commons License


  1. Many AKV people read poorly; they might require a short written metaphor. Jump back
  2. Steve Andreas. (2004) "Nonverbal (Contextual) Implication," Milton H. Erickson Foundation Newsletter, Vol. 24, No. 1, Spring 2004. Jump back
  3. Tim Hallbom trains worldwide. Contact him at the NLP and Coaching Institute of California. Jump back
  4. Robert Dilts, Judith DeLozier (2000) Encyclopedia of Systemic NLP and NLP New Coding, NLP University Press. Dancing S.C.O.R.E. p. 266-68. We recommend having the explorer observe from meta position as you go through the sequence, imitating the explorer's postures and sounds. This lets them literally see themselves and the problem from outside. Short book review Jump back
  5. Our KAV friend Roy, who writes prolifically and well, says, "Thank heavens for spell checkers!" Jump back
  6. We are searching for more flipping methods, especially ones that work with clients unfamiliar with NLP. Please call me at (510) 290-8641 if you discover one. Jump back

Jan Saeger and W. Keppel are NLP Master Practitioners, NLP Health Practitioners, and NLP developers.


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