Learning Style

What is your primary learning style?  Why is that important?

Although each of us is unique, and we understand that, we still underestimate how different we are from others. This can cause serious and unnecessary communication problems.

For example, did you know that “there are basically five emotional love languages”? Dr. Gary Chapman argues in The Five Love Languages that your primary love language may be as different from your beloved’s primary love language as Chinese is from English.

In fact, it’s actually unusual for a husband and wife to have the same primary love language. Why is that important?

It’s because if one spouse is not willing to learn to use the other’s primary love language, the communication between the lovers will be ineffective. If you don’t use your beloved’s primary love language, he or she won’t feel valued, which is an important cause of why so many marriages end in divorce.

The problem comes when we assume that others are more like us than they really are.

The same thing happens when it comes to learning.

According to David A. Kolb (via Wyatt Woodsmall and Eben Pagan), to oversimplify, there are four learning styles and four teaching styles. Actually, each person has a degree of each of the four learning styles, which are like different languages.

Typically and naturally, we teach as we learn—and this is often an important mistake.

If I want to teach you something effectively, it’s important that I construct each communication so that it appeals to your learning style. Obviously, unless you happen accidentally to match my own learning stytle, I cannot do that if I don’t know what your primary learning style is.

What is your primary learning style? There are four possibilities.

(1) Why?

The person who has a predominantly “Why?” learning style always asks, “Why should I learn this?” They need motivation to learn; without it, they are blocked from learning.

If I am trying to teach you something and your primary learning style is as a “Why?” learner, I should explain clearly, even if briefly, what bad outcomes you’ll get if you don’t learn and/or what good outcomes you’ll get if you do learn. I should keep weaving motivations into my communications.

(2) What?

The person who has a predominantly “What?” learning style always asks, “What am I learning?” They need to put what they are learning into context. They are the abstract thinkers. They enjoy learning and don’t need to be told why to learn. They are blocked from learning if they are disoriented. They like to understand the philosophy, theory, history, psychology, overview, etc. of what they are learning. (I myself am primarily a “What?” learner.)

(3) How To?

The person who has a predominantly “How To” learning style always asks for exercises and action steps. They learn best by understanding the correct procedure, recipe, or step-by-step process. They really don’t care much initially about the “why?” or the “what?” They are blocked from learning until they can do the required steps—and then the “why?” and the “what?” fall into place. They learn best by doing exercises

(4) What If?

The person who has a predominantly “What If” learning style is an action learner. These are the world’s entrepreneurs. They are the kind of people who leave a convention midway through because they’ve learned enough to take action and are eager to get out and apply what they have learned. They know that what really counts are real world results. They are all about implementing the next tactic. They learn best by implementing, getting feedback, and then adjusting.

Just as no particular love language is better than the other love languages, no particular learning style is better than the other learning styles. They are just different.

Important takeaway: If you do consult with me, our communications will be more efficient if you let me know prior to consulting with me what your primary learning style is so that I can adjust to it.  [See question 28 on the What To Do tab.]

Suggestion: Understanding how you learn is important.  If you are interested in understanding more about yourself and haven’t yet looked at it, please go to the “Self Assessment” page, which is listed in the drop-down menu under the “Resources” tab at the top of the page.