What’s Your Style?

Have you ever heard of the concept of ‘Learning Styles?’ I was introduced to this idea about 3 years ago, during a year-long course in shamanism. Huh? “What,” you ask, “does a learning style have to do with your spirit walk?”  The answer may surprise you, because it has a LOT to do with spirituality, seriously impacts how you relate to yourself and others and understanding it gives you a powerful filter to see the world more clearly.

Seems like a lot to lay on one little concept, doesn’t it? I was thinking about this over the weekend, as I realized how much this knowledge has impacted my relationship with my daughter, my partner, with co-workers and sometimes even with strangers. That’s what made me decide to share some of this with you. It is powerful stuff!

The first introduction I had to the concept was based on the teachings of a psychotherapist who was instrumental in the formulation of the original idea: Dawna Markova. Others have expanded her basic learning styles over the years, but I sincerely feel that hers are enough for getting a grip on the process. Her work has the added benefit of not being too confusing and thereby beyond the average layman to understand.

Basically, it goes like this:

Each of us has 3 basic channels of learning. We take in the world at one level, process it at another, and connect it to ourselves and spirit at yet a third. For example, I interact with the world primarily through my auditory channel: I talk. I read (yes, that is considered ‘auditory’). Sounds come easily to me. When I go for a leisurely walk in the woods, I am most likely to follow the sounds of birds, animals or the wind. I tend to say things like, “I hear you!” or “Sounds good!” I process this information through a kinesthetic filter, writing or creating something, maybe mimicking the activity, and when I have it internalized, there is a visual … a mental image (I often call it my mental map) associated with the topic. Now, I also process things very quickly, so I go through this whole series at lightning speed. This made it challenging initially to determine what my sequence actually was. It was almost like one channel bled into the next. When you get it figured out, though, you will know. It will make sense of things that seemed without reason to you. Suddenly, it will click and you’ll achieve a deeper understanding of how you think.

“OK. So what?” I hear you say. Well, the way I process information tells you a lot about how to share information with me so that I “get it.” It also helps explain things like why I can never find things in the fridge, or why it helps for me to go for a walk or write when I am upset, or why I can’t handle intense television programs very well …. Seriously. The way I figure it, the speed at which I process images (heading straight to my deepest channel) doesn’t allow me to put the filter in place saying “this is not real.” So, it is all real to me while I am watching. My fight or flight instincts go into high gear and I do not find it fun. Not at all.

(A)uditory – (K)inesthetic – (V)isual. These are the three basic styles. Everyone has all three, but they might be in a different place in your learning process. Combined in the various sequences, they make for six patterns. The basic premise of this system is that everyone falls into one of the six patterns. Once you know a person’s pattern, it is amazing what that tells you about their tendencies (Remember, we can all work or train to behave differently than our tendencies!). It also makes it easier to accept when a person does something totally different than how you would do that same thing, or reacts differently than you would. Accepting that other people literally think differently than you do is a powerful tool in your repertoire!

For example, another person I know has auditory for her deepest channel. Her instinct is to take everything said as being directed at her, personally. For her, this is part of auditory going straight to her deepest self. Understanding that about herself helps her to put this in perspective and come up with ways of dealing with it, just as I have found ways of dealing with the power of the visual in my life. Another person I know is kinesthetic up front (how she interacts with the world). She has to touch things, smell them, taste them. She can’t imagine working in an office. She would hate the immobility. Knowing this about her defuses any irritation I might feel when she can’t sit still or gets wildly physical. Knowing it about herself helps her recognize that a sit down job will likely never be in her future, and it also helps her to understand why she has to physically touch things before deciding about them. For her, it is not so much how something looks, but how it feels that she finds most appealing.

I use my knowledge of learning styles every day to help me understand and accept the reactions of people who think differently than I do. When I teach something to a group, I try to incorporate aspects of each channel to allow for an easy way in to the subject for everyone. I may lecture for those auditory folks, show how it’s done for the visual people and have lab time set aside for those who have to do it to get their brain around it. When I teach one person, I can tailor the training to the individual, assuming I have been able to determine how they learn best. I think good teachers instinctively reach for a similar model because their intuition tells them what is needed. When you have someone who knows a subject well, but can’t teach it, the answer may be as simple as expanding beyond their own learning style when mentoring people.

The flip side of the research done on this topic has been the power it gives to marketing people. Advertisements attempt to go directly to our deepest channel, avoiding those pesky processing filters (middle channel) whenever possible. When they succeed, we find ourselves buying something we don’t truly need with no clear understanding of why we *had* to have it. As you understand how you process information, take some time to analyze the ads that have been most effective in getting you to do or buy something you later realized was unnecessary. How did that appeal? What channel was it targeting? Not only will this help you understand your own learning style better, but it will defuse the power of the ad! I have found that advertising becomes less effective, the more I understand why I react as I do. This information helps me reclaim my personal power and re-establish the sanctity of my own mind.

If you are interested in learning more, I highly recommend Dawna Markova’s books. The two I would suggest to consider as great introductions to the topic are: The Open Mind: Exploring the Six Patterns of Natural Intelligence,  and How Your Child is Smart: A Life-Changing Approach to Learning. I like checking out sample pages on books.google.com when it comes to books like this. You might find it helpful, as well. She also has a website where you can explore some of her more recent work topics: http://www.dawnamarkova.com . If learning styles have given you any insights to yourself or others, please feel free to share … either here or on Twitter. I would love to hear from you!

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