Reader vs. Listener

To improve at anything, we must learn. To learn, we must know how we process information. In Managing Oneself, Peter Drucker claims that most people process information as readers or listeners. Readers process information through their eyes, in silence and alone—with books, wikis, or email newsletters. Listeners process information through their ears—via lectures, conversations, or podcasts. While neither method is better than the other, and this dichotomy is reductive (i.e., I find learning by doing most effective), reading and listening are the most practical means for working with others. If you know how your colleagues learn best, cater to that. To start:

  1. Find out how you learn. Pay attention to your next class or meeting and see how you retain information. If taking notes helps you process, you might be a reader. If listening and asking questions help you connect the dots, you might be a listener.
  2. Ask your colleagues how they learn. If they’re readers, take time to craft clear memos to share status or explain problems. If they’re listeners, schedule time for quick syncs so you can verbalize information and let them ask questions.