The impact of learning styles on all communication

There are three primary ways that people like to receive information. They like to see it, or hear about it, or do it. The names for these styles of learning are visual learners (they like to see it), auditory learners (they like to hear it), and kinesthetic learners (they like to do it). Most people do not rely exclusively on one way of learning things, but they do have a preference. The fact that there are three ways to convey information, and that other people may prefer a different style than you, is important to remember for any type of communication you do.

For example, if you are a visual learner, you may spend a large chunk of time preparing a beautiful color coded graph that explains the status of your project.

However, if the person you are giving it to is an auditory learner, they may never look at the graph, and may even be baffled why you spent so much time on it. Instead, they want you to just stop by and tell them about the project. Both of you could end up feeling annoyed and unappreciated, when really it is just a difference in preference in how you like to learn.

Before you put a one sided effort into preparing a presentation, a memo or a staff meeting, consider the three learning styles. If you will be communicating with just one individual, it is OK to ask them how they prefer to get updates from you. Would they like you to e-mail (visual), come and check the project out with you (kinesthetic), or just pop into their office and tell them about it (auditory)? If you are communicating with a larger group, you will need to come up with ways of communicating the same information in three different ways. Provide handouts for the visual learners have an interactive activity for the kinesthetic learners, and make sure you cover all the same information in what you are saying.

This is a large topic, but just realizing that other people may learn differently than you can make a huge difference in your success as a communicator.

Karen Bolda, M.A., is a meeting facilitator and professional development trainer. She's lived in Ashland for 13 years where she operates her own consulting business. Visit her Web site at or contact her at

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