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Overcome Your Defences Against Learning

Learning increases our value as employees. But we often resist learning new things. See if you can identify your learning defences and overcome them.

Have you ever responded negatively to an opportunity to learn? Perhaps you’ve thought to yourself:

  • I know this already.
  • I refuse to do one more fill-in-the-blank worksheet.
  • I don’t need to know this.
  • I don’t know the answer. If I don’t talk, no one will know.

Like most people, you probably have your own defences against learning new things. You may avoid some kinds of content. Perhaps you resist the way it’s delivered. Or maybe you have trouble with the presenter. See if you can identify your defences against learning.

Content defences

  • Do you avoid content if it goes against your beliefs? For example, you may be asked to see a situation from a different point of view.
  • Do you avoid content if it takes extra effort? For example, you may need to learn the meaning of new words.
  • Do you avoid content if it challenges your confidence or abilities? For example, you may need to learn a new way of doing a familiar task.

Delivery defences

  • Do you avoid situations that remind you of negative experiences? For example, a classroom setting may remind you of problems you had in school.
  • Do you avoid learning if you need to use a new tool or software program? For example, you may not like online learning if you’re uncomfortable using the Internet.
  • Do you avoid opportunities that don’t match your preferred learning style? For example, you may avoid role playing if you’re a visual learner.

Presenter defences

  • Do stereotypes get in the way of your learning? For instance, you may think the presenter is the “wrong” gender, age, race or culture.
  • Does status get in the way of your learning? For instance, you may think the presenter is at too high or low a rank in the organization.
  • Does the personality or appearance of the presenter get in the way of your learning? For instance, you may think the presenter is too self-important or too old.

Try these tips to overcome your learning defences

  • Create a record of your defences. If you’re not sure what they are, talk to a trusted supervisor, co-worker, fellow student or instructor.
  • Know your preferred learning styles. When possible, choose courses and programs that reflect your preferences.
  • Think about each of your defences. Does it help or hurt you and your career?
  • Be aware that learning defences are dangerous if they get in the way of your health and safety or the health and safety of others. Learn to stay safe.
  • When you see a learning opportunity, write down 3 or 4 reasons why it’s important to you. Review those reasons if you feel your learning defences taking over.
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