People interpret and express information differently, which can expand or limit our ability to process details and advice. By understanding how learning modalities affect us we can improve the communication of global health issues and adapt our mindsets to be more receptive and less reactive or even ambivalent towards critical news.

In the first article of our #CovidCreative series, BEJournal invited emotional intelligence and human behaviour expert, Amy Jacobson, to explore how visual learners can adapt their mindset to better deal with this outbreak.

There is a pandemic hitting the world, but why does everything look so normal when I look out my window?

We can’t physically see the virus that is bringing us to a standstill.  This makes it harder to understand the severity and accept the required action steps for those of us that have a default modality of ‘Visual’.

In NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) terms, our modalities are the modes in which we learn, communicate and decide. There are 4 different modalities: Visual, Auditory, Kinaesthetic and Digital. Each of us has a default modality, making one of these four modes our preferred way to take in and communicate information.

Research suggests that our modalities are the main driver for our ability to learn. If the style in which information is being communicated to us matches our default modality, our ability to absorb and learn dramatically increases. We utilise a combination of all 4 of the modalities but our highest ranking default modality determines the speed of our learning process.

When a situation occurs, if we can physically see it, visual people can easily process what is happening. Take, for example, the bushfires or cyclones. The danger was visible and we could see the actual element that was causing the crisis. This instantly fulfilled the need for the high visual people where high auditory people needed to hear about the impacts/stories, high kinaesthetic people aligned to how it was making others feel and what they could do to help and high digital people were researching why this was happening and what was causing it. 

For COVID-19, there is enough data available for the high digital people to research and read for days on end. There is enough talk and media coverage for highly auditory people on every tv, radio station or podcast. The high kinaesthetic in us, is stocking our cupboards and fridges and watching the video’s of communities coming together through music on balconies but for the high visual people, well it’s a struggle. 

How do we satisfy our visual modality when the element is not visible? How do we support those with a default modality of visual, to process what is happening? 

  1. Comprehending the situation:

Access visual aids, such as graphs, for updates on the situation. There are some great simulators out there that take it to the next level for visual people. Seeing the graph or simulation of the virus will help to create that visual image. The Washington Post published a fantastic article here.

  1. Continue to learn:

Working from home has its challenges, but thankfully technology is amazing these days for all virtual learners. Utilise the many virtual platforms to continue learning and stay connected with technology such as Zoom, Skype, Webinars, video tutorials, YouTube. Where there is an option to ‘watch a video’ or ‘dial into a virtual discussion’, pick this over reading or podcasts. 

Photo credit: Julia M Cameron / Pexels
  1. Personal health and wellbeing:

Create a visually appealing environment. The look of our environment is important to creating a great mindset for visually aesthetic people. When our surroundings are in order, our mind is in order. Do you have a ‘work space’, kids ‘learning space’, a space for physical exercise? A space that feels like you have left work/school and are at home? Visual people can have their entire mood changed by creating the right space visually.

Aside from satisfying our visual modality, remember, we can still learn through the other 3 modalities, it just might take a little longer. We are in new emotional territory, making this a little more difficult for our modalities and logical mind. 

Be kind to yourself and if you are struggling to understand or to get through these times, know you are not alone. We are all in this together. 

Developing an adaptive mindset during unstable times builds resilience, empathy, and creativity. It is a tool for coping with stress and a means for innovating beyond this moment. You can find more details about Amy’s mindset-mentoring on her website.