Your listeners’ learning styles can play a big role in how well they keep up with and understand what you have to say.
People have different learning styles, which means we have different ways we learn best. In a formal class, one’s student ability will be enhanced while another student’s potential will be diminished if the teacher presents all the lessons in a single learning style.
Similar things can happen when we speak to people. For example, a young man I know has a kinesthetic learning style. Essentially this means that he learns best by doing. He has great difficulty with chalk and talk teachers and finds their lessons difficult to deal with. In contrast, he is in his element when learning is “hands on.” He also needs to be convinced that what he is asked to do is relevant. In other words, he needs to understand the “why” before effective learning can take place.
Why are Learning Styles Important for Responsible Speaking?
Responsible speaking is about conveying a message that your listener can hear and understand. Your listeners’ learning styles affect how they are able to receive, absorb and integrate information, whether you are making a formal presentation or having an informal face-to-face conversation. The same is true for all people. So if we can accommodate peoples’ learning styles when we speak, then our attempts to communicate are more likely to be successful.
One of the primary goals of the Christ-centered leader is to enable people to be their very best. Whether it’s a one-to-one conversation, a team briefing, or a sermon, the skill of accommodating learning styles is very important in helping our listeners hear, understand, and respond to what is being said.
A Simplified View of Learning Styles
The following view of learning styles will help you structure what you have to say.
Explain why it’s important
Some people need to understand the reasons why your message is important before they can engage enthusiastically. For listeners with this learning style, this question must be answered to garner their interest. If the question “why” is not answered, the will likely switch off because they are not convinced that what you have to say is relevant.
Convey what it’s all about
What is it all about? These people need to have a more theoretical view of the issue at hand. They can then work out the implications and requirements for themselves, so minimize the detail and they will find it easier to respond.
Set out how to do it
“Just tell me what you want me to do” is the typical mindset of these listeners. They need to understand the practical, pragmatic process in which they are to engage. They primarily need to know how they are required to respond.
“What if?” might be the internal question from these explorers, doers, the experiential learners. They need a challenge to do something and learn from the experience. They may need a pointer on how to begin.
Use words for the verbal learners
Verbal learners like the written and spoken word. They can take in what you say and process it all. Some may prefer the written word; others the spoken word.
Use images for the visual learners
Visual learners like stories, pictures, charts, music, and the visual arts to express themselves and learn. This learning style represents a large segment of every population! They are able to visualize information and find a “words only” communication more difficult to deal with.
Responsible Speaking Takes Learning Styles into Account
When you communicate, whether it is one-to-one or one-to-many, try to accommodate as many styles as possible. A structure to help organize your communication would be to address the following: Why? What? How? and Try it. If you know your listener well, then you can tailor your message to address his/her learning styles.
What is your preferred learning style? Most of us have more than one. What do the people you consider to be good communicators do to help you understand what they say?
Think about each of the members of your team or a group with whom you communicate regularly. From your knowledge of them, what are their learning styles? How can you use these insights to help you communicate more effectively with them? It may seem awkward at first, but remember that practice makes perfect. Speaking with learning styles in mind will soon become second nature.