Becoming a Sponge: How to Use Your Learning Style to Your Advantage

Business.com / Education / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

It can be difficult to force yourself into a learning environment that isn’t conducive to how you best retain knowledge.

Many of us know what it’s like when you’re trying to learn something but just can’t seem to grasp it.

Whether it was a weak subject in school or a technical skill needed for the workplace, it’s frustrating when you just can’t seem to get your brain to comprehend.

It’s easy to get down on yourself when this happens, but consider this: the style of learning you are attempting might not align with your learning style.

If you don’t know what learning style is right for you, then it’s possible you may be trying to jam a square peg in a round hole, so to speak.

It’s discouraging, especially when you want to get as many useful tools in your career toolbox as possible, but there’s always a way to move forward, no matter what your learning style is.

The key to learning new skills is to identify the best way you retain knowledge, be it aural, visual, verbal and more.

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Let’s take a look at the seven typical learning styles, and see how you can use yours to your advantage in the workplace.

Seven Ways To Learn

If you’ve never taken the time to consider your optimal learning style, now’s your chance to see what category you fit into.

Edudemic has a handy infographic guide to the seven learning styles. Here’s a quick overview:

1. Visual

Visual or spatial learners are the epitome of “see, then do.” They need to be able to see a visual image of something before they can understand it.

This learning style even extends to the language they use. According to a learning tip sheet from University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, “These people will use phrases such as ‘show me’ or  ‘let’s have a look at that’.” Visual learners do best if they can see something demonstrated before they try it themselves.

2. Aural

Aural or auditory learners retain knowledge best through sound and music. They best understand things if they can hear it explained out loud, or if they can use mnemonic devices to help them remember.

Aural learners are the ones you’ll see wearing headphones to listen to music while they work. It helps them concentrate instead of distracting them.

3. Verbal

Verbal or linguistic learners need word-based methods of learning, particularly spoken or written. They do well when they can recite things aloud in order to better retain what they’re learning, or if they can write out notes themselves.

They’re generally good conversationalists and do well in jobs that require a lot of speaking.

4. Physical (kinesthetic)

Physical or tactile learners are people who learn best through touching or feeling, which makes them well suited to jobs that require construction or physical creation.

“These people will use phrases such as ‘let me try’, ‘how do you feel?’ and will be best able to perform a new task by going ahead and trying it out, learning as they go,” says the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth sheet.

5. Logical

Logical or mathematical learners typically excel at learning that involves math, calculations, and systems. They eschew creative “out of the box” thinking in favor of patterns that make logical sense, and they’re very good at procedural work as well as keeping up routines.

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6. Social

Social or interpersonal learners are people who perform best when they’re surrounded by others. They love group assignments, getting together for brainstorms, and being sociable with clients and colleagues.

They are also good at sharing their assertions and enjoy role-playing exercises in the workplace.

7. Solitary

Solitary or intrapersonal learners are the clear opposite of the above. They prefer to be alone, without any distractions or impediments to their learning process.

The Edudemic infographic notes that these individuals, “Prefer to learn alone using self-study” and that their personal values have a heavy influence on their goals.

Tips For All Learning Styles

Take a minute to think about which learning style best describes you. It’s likely that your own personal way of learning is a combination of a few of the above, so focus on which one describes your strongest attributes.

The first four styles detailed above are all relating to the physical; that is, things you can see, hear, speak to or touch.

This means you have numerous options when it comes to how you learn a new skill. After all, tactile learning is how we first learn things as children, and much of it can carry over into adulthood.

For example, YouTube tutorials are great for visual or aural learners, and the latter can even choose from podcasts or audio tapes.

Aural learners benefit from repeating information verbally, so if you need to sound out a problem or need to remember something, quietly speak it aloud or even mouth the words to yourself.

Visual learners have the option to utilize color to their advantage. A sheet from UCLA recommends that they “make study cards using lots of color, symbols, and pictures for memory” and “get a mental image as you read. See the information, picture the page.”

Likewise, it’s a great idea to keep a book of your notes during meeting and brainstorm sessions, and use different colored highlighters or page markers to keep track of important information.

This will help your brain key in to what information needs to be retained, or what notes have the highest priority.

Meanwhile, Edudemic suggests that physical learners can tune in to their environment by using objects as much as possible, like in presentations, or as part of a project.

The UCLA sheet also puts focus on physical movement to help preserve knowledge, even if it’s something as simple as using hand gestures while you speak or moving around while you read.

It can even help to physically touch and trace the text you want to preserve in your memory by moving your fingers across the words, or pointing to particularly important headings.

The other three styles are more metaphysical. They have more to do with how your brain works. Logical learners may benefit from taking extracurricular classes, like programming or Excel for better office work, and they actually thrive if challenged to change their habits, which can help give them a better sense of procedures outside their own logical path.

Social learners benefit from sharing their knowledge and assumptions with others, as well as learning what others have to think, and do well to express themselves through role-playing techniques.

The more secluded solitary learners ought to go with their tendencies to internalize and put as much of themselves into their work as possible, according to the Edudemic infographic, you ought to “highlight what you would be thinking and feeling at the time” as you associate and visualize what you want to learn.

Related Article: Motivation First: The Steps to Building a Mindful Company Culture

Use Your Learning Style To Succeed

It can be difficult to force yourself into a learning environment that isn’t conducive to how you best retain knowledge.

That’s why it’s important to recognize your own particular learning style, and figure out how to apply it to your workplace. It could make the difference between moving up in your career, or being stalled at the starting line.

With so much technology and so many techniques available, there’s an optimal method, and plenty of assistance, available to anyone who wants to excel at learning new things.

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