19 December 2012

Hear no evil, see no evil...?

I’ve been watching my language lately. No, I don’t mean that I’m worried about the odd 4-letter word slipping out... I mean that I’ve been considering my use of language in relation to my ‘input preferences’. Depending on your background, you may have come across some of these before – whether you are a ‘visual’, ‘auditory’ or ‘kinaesthetic’ person. And so the rest of your 5 senses don’t feel left out, whether you are a ‘gustatory’ (taste) or ‘olfactory’ (smell) person! It follows from my recent training – see Wearing a Different Hat...

The theory is that we all have a preference, sometimes quite a strong one. According to the various tests you can take, my preference is fairly balanced, with ‘visual’ taking a (very slight) lead – but in terms of ‘how I learn’ I’ve known that for a long time.

I used to think I learnt from listening. Why did I think that? Well, I always wanted to sit at the front in class – I thought so I could listen more carefully to the teacher. What changed my mind? I learnt a little BSL (British Sign Language) – and of course, very little was audible. It slowly dawned on me that what I was doing was not listening to the teacher, it was watching. Auditory (listening and speaking) is probably my least favourite: my attention wanders if I can’t see the person talking to me... I start to look at the floor, my neighbour, read the emergency telephone number on the poster by the door, fiddle with something on my desk. You get the picture – and I really have to make an effort to concentrate on a phone call, or I find someone is asking me a question and I’ve been reading at a leaflet on my desk!

Apparently, you tend to use language associated with your preference, so theoretically I would say, “I see what you mean”, whereas someone with an auditory preference would say, “I hear what you’re saying” and a person with a kinaesthetic preference would say, “I’ve got a feel for that”. I’m a little sceptical myself – and feel my language varies more depending on what I’m talking about.

I was trying very hard to listen to myself during a recent training course I was delivering – and also trying very hard not to let the fact that I was listening change what I was saying! So, what did I find?

Well, when discussing punctuation (for example), I said that you can “hear the difference”, even though we were looking at words on a flipchart (so definitely auditory). A bit later on I said I would “guide them through the minefield” (kinaesthetic), and at the end of the day I suggested they “take a look at all of them and see which best fits” (visual).

I really need to record myself as I am sure I missed a lot of instances (I was aware of far more than the three examples above), and although I am fairly confident that my language varies, I didn’t identify a strong preference for one form over the other.


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