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Learning whilst living might be an obvious way to ensure that we continue to grow and develop but it’s not always that easy. My Big Week of Learning considers the reality of learning from our mistakes and describes how to utilise the experience.

Learning and reflection on our mistakes grows emotional intelligence, empathy, compassion these allow us to see what is working and not working for us. In life we have all kinds of ups and downs, bad decisions and apparent dead-ends whether these are in work or in our home and private lives. For some, instead of learning from experience, they default to patterns such as beating themselves up or perhaps seeking someone else to lay the ‘blame’ on. In doing so, this creates a barrier to the learning from the experience – the opposite to what might actually help.

Everything that happens is due to a certain set of conditions being present in a given context; people, places, time, emotions. By seeking to understand this special cocktail, we gain insights, grow empathy, compassion and understanding and can build better relationships and outcomes. All actions have intention rooted in needs and if we are curious instead of judging we are able to understand each other better helping us to genuinely accept each other over time.

A while back I had what I now call ‘My Big Week of Learning’; the learning was off the scale. And my, did it hurt. Not easy. I had made a big mistake; a mistake which caused someone a great deal of distress. I have always thought of myself as someone who had positive intention. And that still remains true. But, without thinking about the whole picture, the context, process and timing, something I did really hurt someone else. Absolutely not my intention but this was the outcome. I did some of the beating myself up in the first instance and then it dawned on me; I can’t learn while I’m beating myself up, it’s just not possible.

So I did the following:

  1. Chose to interrupt the self beating up default behaviour and changed the attitude to curiosity instead of judgement
  2. Reflected on what happened in the round, the whole experience: What actually happened? What was happening for me, what was happening for them? When did it happen?
  3. Took a look back at my intention? How had that been received, what impact had it had? Where the two things the same?
  4. Thought about my response; how did I respond and what was that about?
  5. Sought to understand what they needed from me
  6. Went back in there, owned my mistake and talked about it openly and honestly

The outcome was that we were talking again, it was not easy at all but we were talking in a way that perhaps we hadn’t before. For me, the experience was worth it for that alone. Seeking to understand is not an easy option. Of course it isn’t; that’s why we default to judgement. Seeking to understand demands of us to suspend judgement and replace it with a relentless curiosity where our focus is on the person who stands before us and in our own responses, giving us even more rich pickings; a veritable feast of learning there, right there, in our every day lives to benefit ourselves and our relationships.

Closing thoughts

I genuinely believe that few people intend to harm others, genuinely…I believe that if we are courageous enough to seek to understand so much conflict in our homes and workplaces would dissolve and create instead stronger, more emotionally intelligent and resilient relationships. I really did get it wrong in the first instance of My Big Week of Learning, but by being curious and brave enough to return to the conflict, I was able to learn a great deal about myself, the other person and us as human beings.

How are you reflecting on all these rich pickings of learning?

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