Lifelong Learning for Interpersonal Learners

Lisa M. Clark The Lifelong Learner Leave a Comment

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I hope you’ve been enjoying this series of discovering how we learn differently. Have you “met” yourself yet? Most likely, you’ll see a little bit of yourself in several of these intelligences or learning styles. Or put another way, you’ll see several of these styles in yourself. But there are more to go! Today, we’re meeting the interpersonal learner.

Say hello to the interpersonal learners.

You’re having a frustrating day, but you don’t know how to explain yourself. No one seems to be understanding you today, but that’s fine. You’ll just plod through under the radar without anyone realizing that you’re not at your best.

“Hey, I couldn’t help but wonder if you’re okay today. You weren’t acting like yourself in the meeting. Was it that presentation from the guest speaker? I think he could have done a better job explaining the details.”

Nailed it. How did that co-worker know things were wrong? And why did she care? There’s a good possibility that this individual is gifted with interpersonal skills.

Interpersonal learners gain a large amount of information from the people around them. They pay attention to not only what a person says but also (and perhaps especially) how they say it. And they’ll most likely wonder why it was said that way. Those in the classroom—the teacher as well as the students—play an important role in the learning of an interpersonal learner.

Are you an interpersonal learner? If so, you likely care very much about how a teacher or supervisor perceives you. You understand things better when you talk them out with others. When an environment is full of healthy and dynamic conversation, you thrive. On the other hand, one individual in a room can hinder your learning in significant ways if you perceive their communication—verbal or nonverbal—to be uncooperative.

Gifts of an interpersonal learner:

In the classroom, these students are often the talkers. They don’t necessarily take over the discussion—especially if they notice it is to the detriment of others in the room—but they process information best when they throw out ideas to the group and see what feedback is returned. They’re not concerned with having the perfect answer right away—they get to the solution through verbal communication and interaction. Discussion-based activities and collaborative work enable these learners to test out their learning through communication.

Interpersonal learners are often perceptive of others’ needs. Sometimes, they are labeled as the people pleasers of the room. If people are upset, these learners know it and often try to remedy it somehow. In their mind, it is in the best interest of everyone to have all individuals in a room at their best.

Myths of an interpersonal learner:

Because an interpersonal learner processes information by talking it out, they are not afraid to present half-formed ideas to the group in order for others to evaluate and modify the theory. However, this method of verbal “rough drafts” can sometimes be interpreted as poor ideas because the information is not yet polished. Interpersonal learners are sometimes labeled as foolish because their thoughts are expressed early and modified often.

Interestingly, many of the myths about interpersonal learners are the ones they can project on themselves. Instead of using self-reflection as an assessment tool (as an intrapersonal learner may do), they often look to others for that information. If they perceive negative feedback from others—real or imagined—they will often take that feedback to heart. In short, since their learning as well as their sense of self are often influenced by others, interpersonal learners may project false perceptions of themselves based on their environment.

Equipping an interpersonal learner:

In the classroom, give these students opportunity to talk with neighbors or in groups about learning. Foster their gifts of communication with public speaking opportunities.

In the workplace, “breakout discussions” are one scenario in which these learners thrive. They’ll present what they’ve learned to evaluate if others in the group gained similar learning. New insights from others excite these learners.

At home, provide the time to allow these learners to tell about their day—which may take a while. Provide feedback along the way to help them process what they’ve learned.

In the classroom, provide feedback to these learners to help them know they are “on track.” These students are often the ones who come to the teacher’s desk with a half-completed project to be sure they are “doing it right.” Simple affirmation is often all that is needed to enable this learner to proceed with confidence.

In the workplace, this colleague is often skilled at moderating and leading brainstorm sessions. By paying attention to all in the room and providing communication necessary to assist in learning, these learners enjoy bridging the gaps from one type of learner to another.

At home, an interpersonal learner will often say “Let’s talk!” or will be the child standing in the kitchen, giving loads of information to the captive audience washing dishes. Undivided attention may not be necessary, but at least some attention is. When you find yourself working on a project with your interpersonal learner at your side, try to make an effort to engage in the conversation as appropriate.

Are you an interpersonal learner? What ways do you love to learn? What tips can you offer those who want to learn more about this learning style? What strategies do you use?

I’d love to hear from you as we continue this learning community!


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About the Author

Lisa M. Clark


Lisa M. Clark spends her days reading and writing about God’s love for all people through Jesus Christ. She is a former high school teacher and a current editor for Concordia Publishing House. Her degrees from Concordia University, Nebraska, and the University of Missouri--St. Louis focus on Lutheran doctrine, education, and writing. You can read her latest posts here.

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