I’m not very good at receiving unsolicited advice.
I don’t learn things well if I haven’t explicitly asked someone to teach me that thing. Honestly, sometimes I’m not that good at taking people’s input even when I have asked for it. Let me be clear, I love other people’s perspectives on an issue, or input to a problem, or insight about the world…bring that stuff on, what I’m talking about is when I am trying to learn how to do something I find other people’s opinions often can be very jarring.
I’m a real “give me a rough outline and then let me have a run at it and see what I work out” kind of learner.
Then I will have a ton of questions.
The trick is what I want in response are further questions, suggestions on how it can be done, possible approaches and then I want to have another bash and get on with it.
Mostly this works for me. I’m happy to hear a bit of theory, and then trial and error. Sometimes this learning approach is a major fail. Like if you are trying to learn how to do something technical and experiential…like driving a car. My poor Mother, that’s all I will say on that.
So, you can imagine my joy when a man approached me at the gym and…
Man: “Were you trying to do a Honkytonk lift* or a Swonkytank lift*?”
(*Lift names have been changed for purposes of levity and humour.)
Luke: Blank stare.
Man: “The other day I saw you were lifting and wondered if you were you trying to do a Honkytonk lift or a Swonkytank lift?”
Luke: Blank stare… “What are you talking about?”
Man: “When you were lifting heavy stuff I wondered if you were you trying to do a Honkytonk lift or a Swonkytank lift?”
Luke: Blank stare… “I don’t know the difference, I don’t actually understand what you are saying. Are you trying to give me some advice about the lifts I was doing the other day?”
Man: “Well actually, it’s a trick question…because you were doing a Swanky-honk-tonk lift but I think you were trying to do a Honky-tank-tonk lift…”
Luke: Blank stare…internal fuming…deep desire to teleport out of this situation…curiosity about why this feels so incredibly unbearable “Oh, right…”
To my horror this exchange continued all the way through to me being shown how to do whatever the lift variation I was “meant to be doing”.
This man is a nice man. He has good skills in teaching people how to lift things. He was probably right. I would probably do well to take his advice…but something in me finds it very hard to do that in these situations.
I’ve worked with my mate Nick for years as my trainer (I just lost him to Sydney which is why I’m attempting to life heavy things ‘unsupervised’) and over that time I was really proud of how I learnt to let him tell me what to do. I suppose he also learnt some stuff about how to tell me what to do. We had a few rocky patches, but now Nick could tell me anything about what I’m doing, and I would pay attention. I’d be keen to learn. I trust him to respect my knowledge whilst adding in his own.
I think the way some men (and women) approach teaching things is problematic for me. I’ve got a pretty long-standing pattern of response to me telling me what to do…it feels a lot like being bullied to me (I know that is not what they are doing, it’s my response based on my past experiences…)
Through-out our awkward interaction at the gym I realised something…I think this nice man was trying to say to me…
“I’ve noticed you have lost your trainer and I can see you are strong and able and that maybe you would benefit from an outside eye helping you with your technique…are you looking for someone to work with? If you are, I’d love to work with you.”
Maybe this is what he was trying to say. Maybe I would respond better to that kind of approach.
I feel kind of sad and strange about it all.
I do not think that it is my job to read between the lines and interpret his communication and make his life easier (let’s face it, a lot of people are expected to, and are doing that for men who are well-meaning but lacking self-awareness, empathy and humility). That’s why I probably won’t be fronting up for more advice from him.
But I also think that he (and other men) are suffering, are missing out, because they get rewarded for not learning how to listen deeply to others, for not learning how to communicate with empathy.
They get taught that because they are male that it is their job to explain things to everyone around them.
So, there is all that.
But, that is his stuff.
What I’m curious about is this thing I have of not really being able to take advice on how to do something technical…even when I really want to.
What’s that all about?
I really don’t know.
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