A Reply: You can learn something from somebody and everything from all.

Speyer Cathedral

This is a guest post by Janine Pfahl, a communications and learning expert. Janine replies to my earlier post., which you might read first.

While pausing for a moment in the spring sunshine to read Michael’s text „You can learn something from everybody and everything from all“, our dog positions his snout on my keyboard and starts to communicate in his own way. It’s absolutely clear what he wants to tell me. Not only dog owners can interpret this signal: „Come on, play with me! Stop working and stroke me!“ Even a dog is not able to not communicate and, after gazing back and forth, he lies down at my feet in the sunshine – and the both of us are happy. He did not only remind me to think of him, but that he is the wiser one. I reward him (and myself) by caressing him and I’m glad not having to speak to anybody.

Communications and learning are the main aspects of my job. I have to talk all day long, sometimes without any relevant timeouts. And while thinking about the different relationship levels of the individual communication partners, my self-revelation and the appeal of what I say,it becomes apparent that not only communication is unbelievably complicated but learning is anything but self-evident. Why?

The older we get the more we experience that we learn unconsciously each day. Is there anybody who wouldn’t be thankful for that? „You can learn something from everybody..“ and everybody knows something what you don’t know (yet). So simple, so true!

After an extended and pleasant discussion with Michael about that topic I couldn’t but agree to all that. So obvious, so natural, so good are his arguments: to learn from the experiences of others, to switch perspectives, to accept different opinions, to see oneself dealing with others and to learn from all that. In a word: be tolerant and learn from others. Who would not agree with that ideal? It sounds too good, doesn’t it?

But there is something which distracts me, since I am no saint. I’m a quite normal human being with my own idiosyncrasies. I am familiar with those dark, narrow blind lanes of communication. And I prefer shaky old wooden bridges over well-paved communication highways, anyway, To learn from others, that means not only to to learn via spoken or written words. We also learn by watching, we learn from other people’s behavior – but the connecting link always is communication. Communication with others doesn’t always proceed according to plan and sometimes smaller or larger misunderstandings happen. Who has never been in a catch-22 like this?

Although I love learning and I want to learn every day and all my life – sometimes I do not want to learn from others. I don’t want learn from a colleague I don’t really respect; I don’t want to learn from a neighbor who wears her humans stains like others wear their clothes. Even if they know something wich I don’t know, from time to time I prefer to turn a blind eye to something. It happens quite often that we see something beautiful when looking away.

For me, learning means not only to discover flaws in nice things, to tolerate them and to learn from them – but most of all it means to see the light and the beauty which emanates from something which is old, rotten or broken. Nature is our reflection: after a bad start into the day, nature shows flowers with enthusiasm – even if they knew that the next storm would carry them away.

My child, smiling at me after a short and bad night, opening his tired eyes….the dog, who asks to be caressed, but who offers me his soft fur to feel good myself. From all that I love to learn.

You can learn something from somebody and everything from all.

Recently, we went to Speyer with the whole family. There were far to many people. Happy about the first sunbeams, people annoyed themselves. At the Speyer Cathedral I saw a nun who, appearing relaxed and friendly, smiled at another person and waved. A wonderful moment, teaching me humility and tolerance.

 The photo was shot by Janine at Speyer Cathedral.

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