Based on the concept of the Love Languages by Gary Chapman, I developed a series of 15 Learning Languages or Learning Styles I present here to help people understand how we learn throughout our lifetimes. “You never learn” and “Why can’t you learn?” are comments frequently made by people frustrated with loved ones who repeat the same behaviors over and over without growth. Often, we are fraught with frustration because we do not realize that each person learns differently. Your Learning Language is not an intellectual or cognitive category but rather a concept for explaining how we grasp information and grow as a result of new knowledge. Part 1 explores the three styles of learning through Reflective Wisdom.
Learning Languages 1-3: Learning through Reflective Wisdom
- Learning through Storytelling
- Learning through Common Sense
- Learning through Mirroring and Mirrors
People who learn through storytelling gain understanding and wisdom from hearing a narrative of what happened to someone else. Storytelling is a powerful tool because it is an honest personal testimony about what happened in someone’s life, the circumstances they faced, the choices they made, and the outcomes they experienced. We cannot argue with someone’s story (unless we think it is untrue). People who learn from storytelling embrace hearing the experiences of others, watching TV and films, and reading books and articles to understand others’ lived experiences to help guide them in their own lives. Often, trust is a major hurdle for people who learn from storytelling. They tend to avoid the advice of others, so they give more weight to an account of a specific situation so that they can reach their own conclusions for how to live their lives. Storytelling is a preferred learning language for people who have received bad advice from individuals who have not empathized well with them and have not fully understood their circumstances. Storytelling allows individuals to learn about life and make their own choices without an authority figure telling them what to do.
Is Storytelling your learning language?
- Do you enjoy learning life lessons from personal stories, testimonies, TV, films, and books?
- Do you avoid asking for direct advice because people do not empathize well with your personal situation, and you do not like people telling you what to do?
- Does hearing someone else’s personal experience help you think through how you would like to address your own life issues?
2. Common Sense
As the saying goes, “common sense is not always common.” People who learn through common sense are usually very wise. They have good insight into people and understand how to respectfully and artfully carry on with their everyday lives, successfully resolving issues that arise. Common sense is a generalized knowledge and insight about the world and how it works. Common sense tells you when to ask for a manager to get involved in a dispute, when to document an incident, or when to lock your doors. Common sense tells you to go to a doctor when you feel seriously ill or to take over-the-counter medicine when you’re mildly sick. It tells us to have a second pair of house keys in case we lose them. Yet, consider how often people do not do these things. Some of us learn through common sense because we have a knack for acquiring wisdom in everyday living.
People who learn through common sense use reason and insight about everyday situations to figure out how to navigate the social world based on understanding and learning unstated social norms. If your learning language is common sense, you are very perceptive about social situations, business and professional settings, and your community. You learn how to live effectively by observing other people’s outcomes, good and bad. This is a style for people who learn how to navigate various life situations through reflective wisdom.
Is Common Sense your learning language?
- Do you handle everyday situations by successfully resolving them without incident?
- Do you find that you know when to ask for help, keep quiet, and address a matter directly?
- Do people think you have good judgment when it comes to giving advice and counsel about a variety of situations?
3. Mirroring and Mirrors
Mirroring is learning by mimicking or copying positive behaviors we see in others. Mirroring is closely related to an observational learning style. Mirroring is what we do when we mimic behavior that is good for us and that we aspire to. If we see a parent singing a lullaby to help a crying baby become calm and quiet, we mimic that behavior because we learn that singing a lullaby is more effective than screaming to soothe the baby. In this case, we are mirroring this desired behavior as a form of learning.
Mirrors are related to mirroring but are a slightly different type of learning language. Mirrors are reflections of who we are. The reflections can be positive, negative, or neutral. Those of us who learn through mirrors learn about ourselves through our reflections in other people, places, and things. They act as our mirrors and help us to see ourselves accurately because it is difficult for us to reflect on our own. Have you ever looked in the mirror and been shocked to see yourself? “Is that what I look like?” We may not be fully aware of how we look until we see our reflection. For example, we may criticize a person for giving a bad tip to a waiter in a restaurant, only to realize we gave the same bad tip the week before but thought it was sufficient. If mirrors are your learning language, you learn about yourself from your reactions to those around you. We learn through mirrors when someone shows up in our lives and behaves just like us, allowing us to see ourselves and our natures through observing our reflection in someone or something else.
Are Mirrors or Mirroring your learning language?
- Do I look for behavior in others I admire and copy their behavior?
- Am I good at observing positive qualities in others?
- If I see someone engaging in positive actions, do I mimic those behaviors?
- Do I see myself (past or present) in the very people that I resent or don’t like?
- Do I avoid personal reflection and personal growth until it’s ‘in my face?’
- Who am I very frustrated, irritated, or annoyed with in my life? That is my mirror.
Mirrors/Mirroring, Common Sense, and Storytelling are all types of Learning Languages in which we learn through reflective wisdom. If one of these learning styles is your preferred learning language, then you prefer to reflect upon life as you see it, and this helps you understand lessons for growth that you can apply to your own life. You pay attention to your experiences and gain wisdom by reflecting on yourself and those around you. The next article in this series addresses Learning Languages 4-8, in which we will explore Learning through Teaching.
About the Author: Becky Brasfield is a writer and mental health treatment provider in Chicago, Illinois. Her works explore the recovery model, the depths of human emotion, and mental health. Becky is a Certified Recovery Support Specialist (CRSS) and Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner (CPRP). Her published works have included academic papers in the area of popular television and film, race, gender, and class, and a variety of topics in mental health recovery. The author wishes to acknowledge consumers at Centerstone Mental Health Center for their insightful dialogue about this topic.
- Kendall-Taylor, Nat. 2017. “How words change minds: The science of storytelling.” TEDxMidAtlanticSalon, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8wol2nGSpY&t=103s
- University of Kansas. “Section 6. Using Personal Testimony. Community Toolbox.” https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/advocacy/direct-action/personal-testimony/main
- Goman, Carol Kinsey. 2011. “The Art and Science of Mirroring.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolkinseygoman/2011/05/31/the-art-and-science-of-mirroring/?sh=60151b951318
Photo by SHVETS production: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-woman-in-red-dress-standing-on-green-grass-while-holding-a-mirror-8929561/
More in this Series
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