Are you teaching what you need to learn?

You may not be a teacher per se, but we teach by what we advise others. If you’ve been dating for any time, you have no doubt given a friend advice on a situation s/he’s facing.

In writing these missives, I’ve become clear that what I suggest to you is often the lesson I need for myself. In fact, sometimes I write a posting not so much for you, my dear readers, but to cement the learning in my own psyche.

Today a teacher appeared for me. The irony of the encounter was so glaring I knew it was a lesson for me as well.

He’d contacted me via email a year ago, but I was not a member of the site so could not respond. His email was fine, but not so compelling that it motivated me to join the site to reply.

Yesterday, he emailed a long message commenting on specific things he liked in my profile and what we had in common. I’m still not a member of the site, so couldn’t respond, but he included his phone number. I thought a man who’d gone to this much trouble deserved at least a brief phone call.

In his profile he stated he had two masters degrees in behavioral sciences and led seminars in interpersonal communication. Since I lead seminars in that area myself, I thought we might click.

On the phone we began by chatting about his quick recovery from major surgery last year. We transitioned into his months-long project that resulted in a book deal. He conducted communication seminars around the country, which included listening skills, because “listening is so important to good communication, and I’m a very good listener. After all, I learn nothing when I’m speaking and I want to know about the other person.” Which lead to how he’d … and then he’d … which got him to … and now he’s….

Do you see a pattern here?

Periodically, I interjected when he took a breath and added my brief comments. None of them resulted in any follow up questions. After 15 minutes, when he finally asked me, “So what do you like to do for fun?” I was relieved that he finally cared to know at least something about me. I replied, “I have eclectic tastes and like to do a variety of activities depending on my mood and who’s available to share them.” I was ready to start listing some of these various activities, when he interrupted, “Do you like to go to wine, er, wine, ah, wine festivals, art museums or lectures?” Before I could respond he was off and running with more on himself and what he liked to do.

I’m learning to limit my time with folks who seem to only enjoy monologues. So after 20 minutes of him learning nothing about me, I said I needed to go. Ironically, we had a lot of things in common. Unfortunately, he wasn’t interested in hearing what those were.

So how is this person who claims to value listening and interpersonal communication a teacher for me/us? It was a reminder to monitor my own listening and communication skills. Am I engaging the other person as much as I could? Do I deliver a monologue? Am I as conscious as I could be of making sure to share air time?

What is it that you advise others that is really a reminder for you? Sometimes it’s the behaviors in which we think we are strong that really need the most work.


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