Home for the Holidays

Learning Together in New Conversations

Holiday dinners have been the subject of stories, as writers depict both the joys of being together with loved ones and the angst from the old scripts that find their way to dinner table conversations well before dessert is served. This year, when meeting with family and friends, notice if your preferred learning style might offer a framework for you to appreciate the roles you choose to play, then guide you to become more intentionally flexible in your approach.

Since learning styles are habits of learning that act as possibility-processing structures, they can limit what you see as possible. Your style preference leads in certain directions and away from others. When things get tense and problems occur, you may get locked into your style and go too far. When your flexibility grows, the number of choices you see in any one situation expands.

If you prefer the practical Deciding style, notice whether you become quick to jump to a conclusion, or even judgmental. You may want to offset this strong style with a little curiosity about others and their opinions. If you prefer the patient Reflecting style, notice if you mull things over so much that you begin to ruminate. You may want to take small actions that take you out of your comfort zone without paralyzing you. When you are on automatic pilot, you may linger too long in your preferred style when the situation is calling for you to use some flexibility.

Here are some questions that may help you to adopt the mindset of another style, and some questions to ask others that may help to move the conversation around the full learning cycle.


The Connector who is engaged, connected, and aware of emotions.
Ask yourself: Am I present and aware of my own feeling without being overly emotional?
Ask others: What are you feeling now?


The Dreamer who is empathetic, inclusive, and imaginative.
Ask yourself: Have I included others’ opinions?
Ask others: What is your greatest hope for this coming year?


The Observer who is patient, understanding, calm.
Ask yourself: Am I listening to understand?
Ask others: What are the assumptions you are making?


The Planner who is structured, detail-oriented, precise.
Ask yourself: How can I organize my thought before I speak?
Ask others: Can you help me make sense of these details?


The Questioner who is skeptical, logical, detached.
Ask yourself: Am I focusing on problems instead of what is going well?
Ask others: What does the evidence show?


The Judge who is practical, decisive, and committed.
Ask yourself: Have I committed too soon?
Ask others: What is the most practical way to look at this?


The Achiever is on time, results-oriented, and resourceful.
Ask yourself: What can I do to keep things moving or redirect them?
Ask others: Is it time to move on?


The Influencer improvises, influences, coaches.
Ask yourself: How can humor shift or defuse the conversation?
Ask others: Should we grab the chance to talk about next time we meet?


The Compromiser adapts, shifts, and fills in the gaps.
Ask yourself: Do I have blind spots?
Ask others: What are ways we might compromise?

Can you create family bliss at your holiday table instead of drama? First, notice how your own learning style preference shows up. What are the roles that you and others adopt in family gatherings? Even if you sit in the same, familiar seat at the table, try flexibly adopting different learning styles by changing the questions you ask. Interrupt old scripts and repeating patterns to focus on learning from experience.

For more information on learning and learning styles, consult How You Learn Is How You Live: Using Nine Ways of Learning to Transform Your Life by Kay Peterson and David A. Kolb.

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