Tuesday 4 June 2024

Learning from my grandson

One of the things people often say to me when learning new skills (you know, the really difficult things, like listening without interrupting...) is that it doesn't feel natural. The implication underlying this, I think, is that it therefore isn't very authentic.  And we all know that being authentic is (rightly) seen as an important trait for effective leadership and good interpersonal relations. (Though I think that needs a little unpacking, as I have written previously). 

However, I think that the description that new behaviour (such as refraining from interrupting) doesn't feel natural is, in fact, inaccurate. And that brings me to the title of this post: Learning from my grandson

Nate is not quite one year old, and has been learning to walk. At first, he was, understandably, not very good at it - he fell over a lot, and waddled in a rather unbalanced way. It didn't look (or, I dare guess feel) 'natural' in the sense used above.  But over the last few weeks he has got a lot better and charges around after his big brother quite easily, and only falls over occasionally.

And I dare guess that most of my readers regard walking as quite natural to them - you may well stroll from one side of the room to the other without falling over, or even hike over the fells, or wander down to the pub...

The point being, of course, that it is a learned behaviour; as indeed are almost all those behaviours which feel natural to us. For natural here is really a mis-label for habitual (or at least familiar). So when people tell me that it doesn't feel natural for them to refrain from interrupting (or whatever the new behaviour is) I refer to Nate and his learning to walk.  It takes practice, but with time they will get good at it, incorporate it into their repertoire of familiar (or even habitual) behaviours, and then it will indeed feel natural.


With thanks to DICSON for sharing this photo on Unsplash (Nate's parents prefer that we don't share his photo online).

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