What You’ll Learn Today:
- How your learning style affects your communication style (and why you care)
- How to identify your own learning/communication style and that of your partner
I’m going to teach you one tool today that’s stood the test of time in my practice. This tool involves some work that was made popular in the late 70s and early 80s regarding how people learn. When you learn or take in information, you do it in one of three main styles:
Knowing how you learn and how your partner learns is critical to communicating effectively.
If you have one style, and your partner has another, (which is likely if you’re in a heterosexual relationship) you’ll find yourself feeling frustrated, misunderstood, enraged, helpless, unappreciated and hopeless. The good news is, you can stop this cycle and get your relationship to connection and understanding with the help of this tool you’re going to learn today.
Visual Communicators in Love Relationships
Men largely fall in the visual communicators category. For them, communicating their love often takes a material or visual form. This is one of the reasons men like to give flowers and gifts, bring home a paycheck, fix stuff and take a woman to dinner or a show. These are all things you can see and that are quantifiable. What’s key is that men often like to be shown love visually also. This shows up as men wanting their partners to cook their favorite foods, look sexy, bring home their dry cleaning and have the house looking nice. All of these behaviors, both giving and receiving, are things you can see.
Cuba Gooding Junior famously yelled, “Show me the money!” Yup: that sums it up for the guys. Show me. I’ll believe it when I see it. You get the idea. Men usually care less about what you say to them and more about what you do for them. What you can show.
Auditory Communicators in Love Relationships
Because God has a sense of humor, most women are auditory communicators. (Yes, I’ve also wondered how heterosexual relationships ever work). We generally like to hear the words of love and appreciation. This is why “He never says he loves me anymore” or “He never talks to me” are the complaints I hear most often from women who come to couple’s therapy. We tend to like cards professing our man’s feelings, little love notes, and reading stories about relationships. Although these things are written (so could be mistaken for visual communication), written words are as good as saying them out loud. Again, it’s a giving and receiving operation. Women generally like to say “I love you” to their partner, as much as they like to hear how much they’re loved, appreciated and valued.
The problem, of course, is that men aren’t generally so forthcoming with all their love words. If they do say them, it’s often not enough for the women in their lives. The men end up thinking: “Geez, I told her I loved her, what more does she want?”
Kinesthetic Communicators in Love Relationships
The smallest percentage are kinesthetic communicators. These are the touchy-feely folks. If your partner walks into the room and you just have to touch them, you might be in this category. Those couples who walk arm-in-arm everywhere, the ones who spoon all night long in bed, the ones who sit closely together on the couch even watching the news? These are kinesthetic people. Now, don’t confuse being kinesthetic with liking sex. Sex is not more prevalent among kinesthetic communicators. In fact, it’s a complaint I hear from some kinesthetic (and other) women: “I just want to touch him and have him touch me, I don’t always want it to be about sex.” What I’m talking about here are people who learn by rolling up their sleeves and experiencing things. These are people who feel connected when they touch another person. When you meet a kinesthetic person, they’ll likely shake your hand and clasp your shoulder with their other hand.
But, I’m All of Them
Some of you are saying, “I’m all three. I like to get gifts, I like to hear ‘I love you’ and I like to hold hands.” Yeah, yeah, I understand what you’re saying. You can definitely be a combination of any of these, but I want you to identify your predominant style. There’s definitely one of these that you like the very best. I want you to dig a little deeper. What are you at your core? The way to find out is to ask yourself, “How do I really know or feel when someone loves me?”
And here’s a little exercise so you can answer that question:
If you could only have one of these three scenarios, which would it be?
#1 Visual: Picture a life where your partner brings you home flowers and gifts all the time, cooks your favorite meals, always looks nice for you and takes you out for fun events and dinner regularly. You have all that but they never really say they love or appreciate you and never want to spoon or hold hands. Would that be enough for you to know in your heart that you are loved?
#2 Audio: Now picture a life where your partner tells you daily how much they love and appreciate you and let’s say they write you notes or poems about how special you are every week. But, there are no gifts for no reason, no favorite meals cooked or random acts of kindness performed. In addition, there’s no real cuddling or kissing you hello/goodbye every day. Would that be enough to believe in your heart that you are loved?
#3: Kinesthetic: Your final picture is of a life filled with touching. You walk in the door and your partner is all over you like white on rice. There’s cuddling on the couch, walking hand-in-hand and spooning all night long. However, you don’t hear how special you are or get “I love you’s” and there are no gifts (except the necessary holidays every year), no one bringing home your dry cleaning, stopping to get you flowers or making you lunches. Would that be enough to believe in your heart that you are loved?
I know we all like to get all three on some level. But, I’m pushing you to answer the question: If you could only have one, which would it be? What’s the one thing you’d need, no matter what, to know you’re loved deeply?
Resources and Links:
What We Know About Modality Strengths by Walter Barbe & Michael Milone Jr.
VAK or VAK‐uous? Towards the trivialisation of learning and the death of scholarship by John Sharp, Rob Bowker, & Jenny Byrne
The VARK Modalities
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