I am for you

learning styles – democratic votes vs. first hand experience

Who leads your parade, your gut or your community?

Some people are naturally inclined to favor the democratic process in choosing what to personally believe. The more individual votes they get for a given idea, the more they believe it. These are the people who almost always look to their friends and family (second person) and/or “experts” (third person) to help them make decisions. Kids and younger adults are especially likely to prefer to learn this way.

Other people are naturally inclined to favor first hand knowledge in choosing what to personally believe. The more they have personally experienced something, the more they believe it. These are the people who almost always have to actively test things out for themselves (first person) and/or sit and think by themselves (fourth person) when making a decision (often coming to a conclusion that those around them think is bizarre). Babies and older adults are especially likely to want to learn this way.

A third set of people have a fairly balanced combination of the two approaches. They will consistently make decisions that waver dramatically depending on who they are with at the time.

The problem is that each set has very good reasons for thinking that the other sets are totally crazy and missing major information. For example, we all know that the democratic process can easily lead to cult-like brainwashing situations and fascist states, where people simply do are they are told, and don’t ever test ideas out for themselves. Both personal experience and social norms now confirm that the world isn’t flat, no matter how many people “voted” yes on the idea. On the other hand, optical illusions give us personal experience and social agreement that we also can easily be fooled by our own senses, so personal, first hand experience and intuition aren’t always totally reliable either. And the folks in the middle think that everyone else is crazy because they are so obsessed with one approach or the other, while everyone else sees these middle types as “waffling” all over the place. Which all means that it will take some extra effort to avoid conflict, and keep relationships going relatively smoothly, when you are organizing a group that includes all three different sets.

That extra effort might only need to be letting the different groups know that diversity is normal, and is generally even necessary for gathering all the most important data. Then you can help them be more aware of these three different kinds of “learning” processes that other people have. And finally, working with everyone, you can gather and present a collective pot of basic information about different personal experiences and social norms related to the group’s specific goal will help keep the group working well together, because then everyone can appreciate things from their own natural inclination of evidence gathering style.

Feel free to test this idea out for yourself, or check with others to see which of these categories they tend to work from and what approaches they’ve found useful for working with other people with diverse learning styles to see how true it is. :-)


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