In our practice we have a philosophy. Every interaction with our clients/students is a learning opportunity. It is easy to see how this is true for an organization whose focus it is to help st
udents transition to more independent college life. As experienced professionals who have a passion for learning and education, we have both studied and experienced what it is like to make such a transition first hand. We use these personal and professional experiences to teach our students in the moment. This is especially helpful for students transitioning out of residential treatment, wilderness, or isolative home life. We also have found benefit in this approach with those on the Autism Spectrum.
One area that I have begun to apply this philosophy is in my own life. There are simple ways in which I have found this point of view to be helpful for myself both as a professional, but also as an individual. I have a very simple three step process that I follow to help me get the most out of my interactions with others. One, be present. Two, ask questions. Three, integrate.
The trick is being mindful
and not mindless when it comes to this type of learning. Often times I find myself mindlessly trudging through the day, just going through the motions. I can’t think of a situation in which I took the mindless approach and learned something, in fact I don’t remember those times at all. There are many ways to center one’s self and become engaged in the present moment. For me a simple technique of focusing on the breath, or on something in the room for a minute max is all I need to bring me to the now.
Asking questions is the interaction part of this whole process. I am no Einstein, so when it comes to interacting with people of higher caliber I need to ask questions. Asking questions can be helpful in a number of ways. Obviously, you can gain more knowledge on a subject that you may not understand. You can also develop a relationship by utilizing questions. Questions show that you are listening and interested. When others hear your questions it helps them feel important, and I can’t think of a better way to build a relationship with someone. Asking questions puts others in the role of teacher, and provides a bit of humility to those of us that could use a dose. So don’t be afraid to raise your hand, speak up, ask a question!
Finally, we need to integrate. This is how you can internalize (learn) the information you just gained. Use the tool, become familiar with the equation, try the joke on a friend. Utilizing what you learn and repeating this will help you retain this new bit of knowledge that you have gained. It can also help solidify a relationship. When others see us using something that they have taught us it helps them feel like they have made a difference in the life of someone else.
So whether you take on the role of teacher, life coach, therapist, or student, much can be learned through this simple process. Take a minute, center yourself, engage with the other individual and integrate what you learn in your own routine. You are well on your way to making every interaction an opportunity to learn.