Linking Learning Styles

When I was growing up, my father would always tell me what to do, but not why I should consider doing it. As you can imagine, this led to many conflicts. When it boils right down to it, I need to know why I need to learn or do something before I am willing to learn the what or the how. My dad, however, was clearly a what guy. Just tell him what to do in enough detail and off he went.

Learning Styles

One of my speaker friends, Pam Gordon (, is an expert on learning styles. There are four key learning styles:

Why Learners
They ask themselves this core question: "Why is this important to me?" 
They like stories and language that tells them what they can achieve or avoid. As a speaker, trainer and consultant, I'm continually focused on how to use all four learning styles in my presentation to engage all of the audience and maximize the learning.
What Learners
Their core question is: "What are the facts?"
They like facts and thorough explanations. They like expert insights. Approximately 25% of the population falls into this learning style.
How Learners
They ask: "How is this practical?" They like practical, real-life examples and key points. The bottom line for How Learners is "how can I use this now?"
Where Else Learners
They ask: "Where else can I use this information?" They like quick cause-effect conclusions. They like dramatic examples and insights into how to bridge this information to other situations.

Rapport, Rapport, Rapport

Growing up, I'm sure my dad thought I was rebellious and I thought he was too authoritarian. We were both clueless. All I needed was a "why" and when I went out with friends, all he wanted to know is "what" we were going to do. In retrospect, it would have been so easy to make peace with my dad about a lot of things if we'd only understood each other's learning styles.

Do you have a parent, spouse, coworker, employee or child that seems to resist you on key topics? If you think about how they communicate to you, do they usually tell you why, what, how or where else? Now think about how you communicate with them. Do you lead with why, what, how or where else? Can you understand why you're in conflict?


Next time you have to deal with that "difficult" person in your life at home or at work, take a couple of extra moments to figure out how to introduce an idea or task using their learning stylenot yours.

  • Why might they consider doing it?
  • What are the facts that back it up?
  • How might they consider doing it?
  • Where else might it be useful?

Here's My Point

We all have varying mindsets, but with a little effort you can learn to see the patterns in other people's minds and align with them to create connection and progress. Or you can continue to struggle and blame others for their limitations. It's up to you.

Play with the learning styles and learn how to connect more fully with everyone.

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