We all want to be experts at something. For you, maybe it’s a career, a hobby or some kind of special skill. Whatever it is, you’re probably happy when someone appreciates your expertise and asks you to share it. Doesn’t it feel good to pass on your knowledge and improve someone else’s life, even in small ways? Teaching can be very rewarding, but it can also be difficult.
In January, my husband and I brought home a 10-week-old puppy and named him Fezzik. He’s a Black Mouth Cur, just like our 3-year-old dog, Tenzing. Unlike Tenzing, he is high-strung and fearful. We’ve had a hard time socializing him, or even getting him out of the house. Despite a lot of hard work from my husband and me, Fezzik hasn’t made as much progress in his training as I’d like. I think I know why.
When we brought him home, we jumped right into training. Tenzing is so well behaved and calm that people compliment us on her training whenever we take her out. We wanted the same with Fezzik. But our desire for quick results forced us to overlook one important thing: Fezzik was too fearful for intense training. He needed to bond with us and learn to trust us first.
I’ve started to relax a bit with Fezzik. Instead of trying to teach him a strict set of rules and boundaries, I’m getting to know the things that make him afraid, as well as the things he likes. Now I can tailor his training and make it more fun for both of us. He’s making slow progress, but that’s what he needs.
In my yoga classes, I sometimes try to get students ready for an apex pose with a set of “warm-up” postures. I want people to be stretched so they can really get into the pose I’m building up to. But I find there is little growth when I stick to a rigid plan instead of allowing students to show me what they need. Teaching shouldn’t be about forcing people to move along at a set pace; it should be as adaptable as my approach to training with Fezzik.
When we teach others, it might help to remember that each person is the expert about himself/herself. By allowing others to show us what they need and then adapting, we can be better at sharing our knowledge with those who seek it.