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What is Your Learning Language? Part 4: Learning from Power and Authority

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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. Learning Languages 13-15 are our ways of Learning from Power and Authority. Learning from Power and Authority means learning from the people, places, and things that have a governing influence in our lives. Power and authority can be represented by people we know, such as parents and bosses, or impersonal forces, such as government or the military. A person’s relationship to power and authority is defined by each individual, and, as such, it is neither good nor bad. In the fourth and final article in this series, we explore the learning languages of individuals who grow and change based on learning from the important role of power and authority in their lives. 

Learning Languages 13-15:  Learning from Power and Authority

  1. Learning from Authority Figures
  2. Learning through Tough Love
  3. Learning through Silence (Higher Power)

13. Authority Figures

Authority figures are anyone with a higher level of power in any situation who can determine an outcome for you. We frequently think of authority figures as military officials, police, and judges. However, authority figures include parents, teachers, bus drivers, store managers, physicians, landlords, religious leaders, and even a deity. There are many types of authority figures in everybody’s life, and people react differently to them. If learning from authority figures is your Learning Language, your style is to learn what is right and wrong and what to do based on what authority figures tell you. ‘I need to hear it from the one in charge’ is often said by these language learners. Typically, the learning takes place because the authority figure is endowed with a title, credential, or special power. Many of us learn from authority figures, even if this is not our Learning Language. The difference is that if this is your learning language, you need to hear from authorities to learn what to do. 

People who learn from authority figures learn from those with official status who uphold rules and from socially prescribed codes of conduct such as laws and policies. Not all authority figures are ethical. Authority figures are supposed to uphold rules and clear guidelines for acceptable behavior, but this is not always the case. When your Learning Language is Authority Figures, you may fall victim to not using your own judgment and relying too much on authority (authority bias). We should use common sense, morality, ethics, and good judgment to assess our authority figures. 

Is Learning from Authority Figures your Learning Language?

  • Do you change your behavior when an authority figure tells you to do so?
  • Are rules and established guidelines for conduct how you learn what to do?
  • Do you respect authority figures? Do you fear their authority over you?

14. Tough Love

Some people learn through tough love, which is love demonstrated through boundaries, discipline, and lessons. Tough love is a combination of sticking to one’s boundaries and telling individuals the truth, allowing them to experience the negative consequences of their actions. We use the term “tough love” because it is a kind of compassionate learning that occurs between loved ones that is hard for everyone concerned. Tough love is often associated with families in crisis when substance users cross a line, and their loved ones allow them to experience the consequences of their behavior for their own good or learning. People who learn through tough love benefit from knowing, deep down, that the people who are teaching them difficult lessons, imposing discipline, and setting boundaries with them, also care for them. The learning reaches them because they understand that they are not being punished or criticized but rather being shown compassionate, respectful, tough love. 

Is Tough Love your Learning Language?

  • Do you learn when the people around you set boundaries with you and stick to them?
  • When your loved ones tell you the harsh truth, do you listen?
  • Do you gain insight and change when you feel compassion, caring, and understanding?

15. Silence (Higher Power)

Silence is the absence of sound. Silence allows for the space and time for careful reflection and the needed opportunity to hear oneself think. People who learn from silence enjoy meditation and contemplation. Silence may be a time of hearing one’s conscience and higher thoughts for guidance and clarity. Silence is a learning style for those who prefer meditation, prayer, and contemplation, believing in a deity, higher power, or spiritual force in the universe. If your Learning Language is silence, you embrace quiet time to gather your thoughts, which produces learning and wisdom. Silence can be a great instructor. It teaches when there is no response, when people retreat, or when the conversation ends. Silence is not always passive; it is often an active response. For example, when someone stops calling you back, that is a form of silence. Or when a person ignores a behavior, that is silence, too. Silence communicates a message, and many of us learn from interpreting that message as a higher form of awareness. 

Is Silence your Learning Language?

  • Do you gain insights when you experience silence?
  • Do non-responses and breaks from other people teach and enlighten you?
  • Do you enjoy meditation, contemplation, and reflection?


If learning from Authority Figures, Tough Love, or Silence (Higher Power) are your preferred learning languages, then you learn from Power and Authority. You feel secure when an authority with power helps you learn life lessons and skills. Status, titles, prestige, or power and authority reach you most effectively. You benefit from knowing that information is transmitted from someone or something in authority. Learning from Power and Authority concludes the fourth and final article in the series of 15 Learning Languages. However, there are a few additional thoughts on this subject. 

Why isn’t Repetition Considered a Learning Language?

Repetition is a supplement for learning languages, but not a Learning Language itself. Repeating behaviors creates mental connections for improved memory. However, repetition alone is not a learning language because, frequently, people repeat behaviors without learning. You may argue that people learn through repetition, yet our position here is that when we learn, the repetition of the behavior supports any of the 15 Learning Languages. 

Does everyone have a Learning Language?

Almost everyone has the opportunity to learn in some capacity. Yet, you may read about these 15 Learning Languages and wonder, ‘What about people who don’t learn?’  While this series of articles cannot explore the intricate differences between human instincts and learning, you will probably personally identify with a few of the learning languages yourself. While someone else’s learning style may not be immediately apparent to you, and you may even question if they can learn at all, think of the many things a person has learned in their lives and how they learned. When we honor our strengths, we grow in our recovery. Learning languages are a tool to maximize our growth. 


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.


Photo by Ian Stauffer on Unsplash

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The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.

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