Are you a listener or a reader? How do you learn?

Are you a listener or a reader?

What an interesting question.  Peter Drucker’s Managing Yourself offers some interesting questions.

He said you need to know whether you listen or read.  He said Dwight D. Eisenhower was a reader and as a general he was well-loved by the media, but when he became president they despised him and scoffed at his inability to answer their questions.  Turns out that as a general all his questions were given to him half an hour before the conference started and so he was able to read the question and respond to them thoughtfully.  But as president, he was only asked the questions.  He came off as uneducated and poorly informed because his brain didn’t process oral information as well as it did written information.

This is me.  I do that.  If you talk to me, I can follow you.  But if you ask me something complicated, I have to write it down and read it to get it.  And I am slow to answer orally, but I can answer quickly and well in written communication.  I think there is something about oral communication that makes me feel put on the spot and I feel pressure and don’t do as well.

Lyndon Johnson had been, Drucker said, a superb congressman, but was a poor president.  As a parlimentarian he had to listen well and speak well.  When he became president, though, he inherited the habits of JFK’s staff and they wrote for him.  He didn’t read well and half the time he didn’t get what they were telling him in writing.  

This is an interesting idea with repercussions not just for us but for our students.  I have an older student who acts like she has no clue that I said to do things.  I’ve started trying to write down her assignments, since she doesn’t go read the syllabus.  We’ll see if that really makes a difference.

How do you learn?

He goes on to talk about people who learned by writing (Winston Churchill) and who learn by speaking (himself).

I learn better when I have to teach someone.  If I teach someone, I know things.  This is the best way for me to learn.  It is part of why I enjoy teaching.  I learn so much when I teach.


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