Who is teaching who?

It was Lizzie and Max’s third obedience class. Max is a handsome but stubborn one-year-old Lurcher. Lizzie was teaching Max how to listen to commands like ‘sit’ and ‘heel’. Max was having nothing of it. After 15 minutes, Max was well and truly bored. He was fidgeting, his eyes were darting elsewhere and searching for more interesting things to do. Lizzie kneeled down to Max’s level and spoke sternly to him, “Max, come. Listen to me.” Max simply stared back, with a blank expression, almost saying, “Seriously, I have had enough. This is boring. Let’s go to the river instead!” The face-off continued until Max slipped the lead and Lizzie chased after him, swearing that he is the most disobedient dog ever.

Have you ever tried to teach someone and nothing was getting in? Or explain something to someone in vain? No matter how hard you tried or regardless of the technique used, it was like talking to a brick wall, where even a tree stump had more response. It is moments like these you need to seriously consider what you are even doing. There are times when you try so hard and it is usually because the topic at hand is so important to you that you feel extremely frustrated when the other party is not reciprocating. Sometimes, it is something you know that will benefit the other party immensely which is why you try so hard. But they just do not seem to get it or even care.

This may be when you are trying too hard to teach instead of trying to learn. The most outstanding teacher is the most outstanding student. It is when you empty your cup, have no expectations and seek first to understand before expecting to be understood that you allow the other party to be open to receive. Everyone’s favourite business is their own business. When they realise that you want to understand them and allow them to express their feeling, emotions and thoughts, then they will listen to what you have to say. After all, what you are telling them is ‘your business’ and there is no reason why they should feel obliged to listen in the first place.

Some may learn like you, many have their own way of learning and processing information that may be vastly different from you. When you are explaining something to someone or training your beloved pet, a simple question to ask would be, “Who is learning from who?” or “Who is training who?” You may find that despite thinking that you are the one doing the explaining to someone and that person has something to learn from you, the reality is actually, you have been given the opportunity to learn from them. They are teaching you how to speak to them. Similarly, when you are ‘training’ your pet, understand that your pet may actually be training you instead. He may be telling you that you may have to change your method, something else needs to happen before he listens or simply, he is not interested as he does not see any benefit in that training.

In future, before you feel exasperated because you are failing to get your point across, ask yourself if you have been learning from the other party or have you just been simply bulldozing your point across. If you are not prepared to listen or to learn, it is likely that the other party will do the same, not listen or learn. If you persist, you will find only frustration, stress and likely, failure despite your best and earnest intentions.

Instead, may I suggest that you ‘forget’ (temporarily) your original idea and just completely open your mind, heart and soul so you are in completely ‘receiving’ (rather than ‘transmitting’) mode to the other party and see what the other party wants. If possible, fulfil the other party’s dreams and goals first. If not possible, at least listen and seek to understand why they have expressed those dreams. Only then, you should attempt to make your point. The best teachers are the best students. And likewise, the best students make the best teachers.

After Max has run his course around the river for 20 minutes, Lizzie only took a single try to get him to sit and heel. They had both learnt from each other. Lizzie had to learn first as she was the one who initiated the teaching.

‘Cooperativeness in conversation is achieved when you show that you consider the other person’s ideas and feelings as important as your own. Starting your conversation by giving the other person the purpose or direction of your conversation, governing what you say by what you would want to hear if you were the listener, and accepting his or her viewpoint will encourage the listener to have an open mind to your ideas.’ – Dale Carnegie

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