Unlearning and Extinction Bursts

Learning new things is easy. Adopting new behaviors as a result of that knowledge is harder.

I was asked to write an article for Chief Learning Officer Magazine on behavioral extinction’s role in the learning process. You can read it over at: http://www.clomedia.com/articles/6525-unlearn-before-you-can-change . It’s about how we need to unlearn old behaviors before we can learn new behaviors.

This “rule” – unlearning has to happen before new learning can occur - applies to everyone whether it is an individual trying to create a new exercise habit or a company initiating a new work process.

If you are in a position of leadership, at some point, you are going to be tasked with teaching people new skills. Knowing what you want to teach is only part of what makes a good teacher. Teaching is an art and the best teachers are compassionate. They give us space to make mistakes. They nudge us along as we struggle to learn the new way of doing things.

They are compassionate because they understand – we will struggle. We have to unlearn old habits before we can fully master new ones. And they give us the space and encouragement we need, consistently over time in the form of compassionate pressure and encouragement, to make those changes.

Learning how unlearning will save you a LOT of frustration the next time you are tasked with teaching someone, including yourself, new tricks. When you understand how learning and unlearning occur, you find there is no need to get frustrated. You just have to create the conditions in which learning and unlearning can occur.

If you want to learn more about the science of learning and unlearning and behavioral conditioning  - check out this course: Why is Change so Hard? https://humanistlearning.com/change1/

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