How Do You Learn?

Learning is something we do throughout our lives. We learn to walk, to talk, to play, to interact with others. Sometimes we have formal education, from elementary school to high school, to college, graduate school, perhaps even adult education. We learn on the job, how to be a good spouse and then a parent.

With all this learning happening, knowing how you learn can have a big impact on your life. Understanding what works for you to remember, recall, and utilize information is paramount.

Some people get the most out of education by seeing. Others might internalize best through hearing. Perhaps you learn best by writing. Or doing.

With the important role learning plays in our lives, it is a little surprising schools don’t offer formal education in how to study. Students are usually expected to just figure out what works best for themselves.

If you were to take such a class, or perhaps even to teach it, what would it show? How do you learn?

Related questions: How does your vocabulary influence how you think? What are the benefits of fiction? How do you define success? How do we know what we don’t know? What makes something memorable? How important is the repetition in our lives?

How Are We Doing?

Intellectual Roundtable has been in operation for nearly a year and a half. In that time, we have posted nearly a hundred questions, on topics that range from introspective to worldly, from serious to silly. You can see a full list of all the questions ever posted at our Past Questions page.

During this time, we have had ups and downs. Some questions have received more interest than others. Some weeks and months have seen more activity, others less. The question we often ask ourselves is: why?

As the end of the summer approaches, as people are finishing up their vacations and preparing to go back to school or back to work, we thought we would ask for some feedback.

How are we doing?

Do some questions resonate with you? Do they make you think? When you are in a social situation, do you ever ask some of the questions of other people? Feel free to share any stories of conversations you may have had at a party or other gathering.

If you do not respond to questions, why not? What are the obstacles to sharing your opinion? Posting is completely anonymous, should you wish.

Should there be more frequent questions? Less frequent?

One of the goals that Michael and I have for the blog is to encourage interaction between commenters. Have you ever responded to someone else’s comment? Would you do that?

If you find you like a particular question, have you ever shared it on social media? What do you think would get you to share one with your friends? Sharing on social media is the way that a blog like this attracts new readers and grows an audience.

What do you think about the look of the website, or about the navigation in place? What about the appearance of questions on Facebook?

Finally, for those who aren’t interested in providing feedback, there is an alternate interpretation of the question. As a species, how are we doing? Is there hope in our growing understanding of the world, or does our shortsightedness doom us?

Related questions: How can you help? How have we changed?

How Can We Become Better Listeners?

Listening to others is hard. If someone else says something you don’t agree with, the overwhelming impulse is not to listen, but to explain why you disagree.

But that impulse is not always correct. Often, you have to hear why someone believes something before you can try and change their mind. And that means it is important to listen to what they have to say, no matter how wrong-headed or incorrect you might think they are.

As a society, we are currently divided into two (or more) isolated camps. I often hear that we don’t talk to each other, but I think the problem is really that we don’t listen to each other.

Beyond our political or social climate, studies in management show that to make an effective team, the members of that team need to feel that they are heard. To get team investment in a particular strategy or course of action, all team members need to feel they have a stake in setting that course.

Even when arguing with a spouse or a romantic partner, it’s possible to hear the words, but to miss the underlying message that is causing the disagreement.

In each of these cases, listening to others is important. And yet it is a difficult skill to learn, to really listen to what others have to say. It seems like it should be easy to do — after all, we all know how much we want to be heard ourselves, so why do we find it so hard to allow others to feel like they are heard?

I think that maybe it is because we feel no one listens to us that makes us bad listeners. If I feel that the person I am talking to isn’t listening to me, then my effort is on making them hear me, not on hearing them.

So how can we break this cycle? How can we listen to someone else, and let them know that what they have to say is heard, so that they in turn can be willing to hear what we have to say? What are the tools that allow us to do that? How can we sort through the extraneous information, like insults or unnecessary detail, to really hear what is at the core of another’s message?

How can we become better listeners?

Related questions: What are our responsibilities to others? What is necessary to change your mind? What do we have in common? How can we encourage debate?