Communication and learning styles

A while back I mentioned that K, some associates and I had started up a new non-profit.  Things are going reasonably well.  People have been more supportive than I had thought.  We’ve had about 70 patients so far and we’ve got the systems set up so that patients entered into the database post up to Twitter, along with any Facebook updates.

One thing that I have noticed in working with the others on the non-profit is that learning styles and communication styles seem to be closely related.  You can divide learning styles (among other ways) into verbal vs visual learners.  Verbal learners prefer to hear things explained to them.  whereas visual learners prefer things to be written down.  Based on some of our recent experiences, I think that this plays into communication styles.  And it’s communication styles which are (occasionally) biting us.

We’ve got two people (including me) who have a strong visual preference – we like email for communication.  We have one person who exhibits a strong verbal preference (prefers the phone or in-person communication) and one who has no strong preference either way.  On a couple of recent occasions, we’ve had some missed communication.  Our verbal communicator will say something or mention a project or deadline and expect that the rest of us have kept up.  Our email/visual communicators don’t catch these verbal references and do the same thing with respect to email.

I was talking to our verbal communicator (by phone, of course! – she called me after I emailed her) about this and mentioned that I don’t ever catch the details when she’s talking.  At the last board meeting, she had mentioned a project and I *assumed* that if there were deadlines, they would be sent out in email.  In fact, I don’t ever consider anything to be real until I see it written down.  It’s just how I think.  People might *talk* about a lot of things, but until I see them commit some details to something written (email, memo, etc.), I don’t think they mean it.  After I described this to our verbal communicator, she confessed that she often never reads the details of the email that our visual communicators send.  In other words, in the same way that I don’t give enough consideration to non-visual communication, she doesn’t give enough consideration to non-verbal communication.

All in all, this isn’t the worst problem that a group of people can have.  I think the most important thing is to recognize these differences and to know that if you want to be certain that your message is received, you have to consider the expected medium for your audience.  (shock!)

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