Learning Styles are Life Styles
by Barbara Prashnig
How you learn is how you live
From our investigation into style differences in the areas of learning, teaching, working, stress management, communication and partner choice, it is already more than obvious that the way we do things doesn’t end here - style differences go far beyond that. It is appropriate to say that learning and working styles are not only that - they are really life styles.
The main differences are these basic ones: analytic, holistic and flexible overall styles. No matter how well you play roles in your professional environment, when you go home you either slip into another role and act out another style, or, most of the time, you revert back to your true style. It is easy to imagine how (when not understood and appreciated) these style differences cause problems on a daily basis, not only in the workplace, but also between partners and among family members.
Just consider this:
Are you a person who needs lots of stimulation you get by creating dramas at home, by causing disruptions with people at work or by pursuing somewhat dangerous hobbies?
Or are you the type who doesn’t like to socialise very much, enjoys sitting quietly at home reading, a good book and gets stressed out at work when no one else does?
Style differences based on left/right brain processing (manifesting themselves as analytic/holistic style features) deeply affect even seemingly unimportant aspects of our daily lives.
The following examples describe extreme styles but are not unusual and you might even know people who are like these:
Analytics usually need a cook book and follow recipes very diligently, they only start cooking when all the necessary ingredients available and everything is prepared; they are not very creative but reliable cooks.
Holistics don’t like to follow recipes, usually throw together something with ingredients they happen to have available, create new dishes, unable to repeat the same dish twice but they are very creative cooks.
> Squeezing the toothpaste tube:
Analytics always squeeze it from the end, if possible, roll it up, close the cap.
Holistics always make a mess, squeeze it from the middle, never roll it up and can’t be bothered to put the cap on which drives true analytics crazy.
> Going Shopping:
Analytics make shopping lists, plan every purchase and spend their money - even if they have lots of it - very wisely and hardly ever on unnecessary items.
Holistics, however, love shopping and do it spontaneously. They loathe shopping lists, and when they do write one, they usually leave it at home and buy things that are not on the list. And what’s even worse, they hardly ever know precisely where their money has gone.
Reflect on your own relationships, your daily life and you will realise the number of examples is endless.
Marriages, the most committed form of relationships, go wrong when husband and wife fail to acknowledge, or begin to resent each other’s complementary differences especially after years of living together.
So, what’s the message in all that? You may have already guessed and it can’t be said often enough: Know Thyself!
It might sound like a paradox, but the better you know yourself, the more chances you have to understand others and the more likely it is that you will get on with them, especially with your nearest and dearest. Living together with people who have opposite styles is not easy but knowing their styles and understanding why they act as they do, leads to more tolerance and has been the saving grace in many a relationships.
Some things never change: the real YOU
Increased self-knowledge will give you yet another advantage: you will realise who you really are, what makes you tick, what you can change and what you can’t. By understanding your personal style features, your preferences, your flexibilities, your dislikes, and even your intelligence factors more accurately, you will also realise what your core qualities are.
These insights are particularly important when you are under stress or encounter adverse situations. Based on the unique way your brain works, you will always fall back into your basic style features under such conditions because your brain will go into survival mode.
It has to, because under threat it cannot and will not consider options; all it will do is help you survive, whatever ‘survive’ might mean to you. And that can sometimes be a nasty surprise when you don’t know your basic patterns of your behaviour, your thinking, learning or acting - in other words, your real YOU.
Let me illustrate this with the following example:
When things are going well, everything is to your liking, your needs are met, and you can do things your way, you will most certainly feel comfortable, probably enjoy yourself and also be able to display flexibility when necessary and appropriate.
You cruise along, are satisfied with your accomplishments, probably like yourself for that, and you notice that you are in harmony with others, you are nice to them and in return, they are nice to you.
And then something happens - something unexpected and unpleasant, upsetting the whole pleasant scenario. Unless you are an incredibly balanced person or know yourself extremely well, you will notice that within a very short period of time – often within moments – your behaviour and your style changes, most often to the negative.
In such situations people often display behaviour so very different from their usual one, and do or say things they later regret. These can be times when people hardly recognise their partners or workmates because all of a sudden they are so different from their usual self. Often they don’t even recognise themselves, may get very upset and wonder what has gotten into them. These mechanisms can repeat themselves time and again, and people have no clue how to break their patterns.
Unless you learn what makes you tick and how your personal style features affect you in every situation, you have no chance of controlling your behaviour, let alone preventing that your emotions control you. But when you know yourself, your core features, your strengths and weaknesses, your boundaries, your breaking points, you can develop strategies to prevent going over the edge because you know how you would react automatically if you didn’t know yourself. Like it or not, some of your style features will never really change, particularly your biological ones (as you can see them in Graph 1 of the LSA or WSA Profiles) as they are responsible for who you are.
You’d better learn to live with them, use them to your advantage and capitalise on your strengths. Remember: you are a special human being with a unique brain and a unique style combination, and although you cannot control what happens to you, it’s always in your power to control how you react.
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About Barbara Prashnig
Professor Barbara Prashnig, a pioneer und visionary in the field of style diversity in leaning and working as well as professional development. Her passion is to help people in difficult situations succeeding through better self knowledge. She is the Founding Director and CEO of Creative Learning Systems in Auckland, New Zealand.