Friday, March 13, 2009

Tomayto Tomahto

This Calvin & Hobbes strip is one of those 'it's funny cos it's true' situations. There are times when one person says something that the other person just doesn't understand because they can't connect with it. Calvin just can't take school seriously. He is simply not motivated by the grade curve. Susie might as well be speaking another language. Of course, her frustration is that she has her whole formal education planned and she sees being partnered with Calvin as having the potential to upset her neat little apple cart.

This morning, as I walked my dog, we passed a bunch of loitering lads, making a show of being in no hurry to get to school before the bell. One of them let forth a high pitched squeal completely at odds with the laconic image he was trying so hard to portray, and hid behind one of his friends. In his hurry, he chose the worst possible friend because, although he hadn't squealed, the friend was just as terrified of the dog as he was.

Knowing how limiting an irrational fear is, I stopped and invited both boys to come over and talk to Jessie, to feel how unbelievably soft her coat is. I promised them that she would do them absolutely no harm, being the sweetest natured hound imagineable. The non-squealer declined my offer. The squealer, to his credit, took a few steps towards us. Jessie, delighted at the attention, turned to face him, ears forward in interest. The lad, his attention focused on her teeth, rather than her wagging tail, took this as a sign of aggression and retreated with another squeal.

At this point, a third boy, whose body language identified him as the top of the pecking order, strode towards her with his hand out, announcing, "I'm not scared of dogs!". Every single thing about him screamed that this was all bravado. That he was as terrified as the other two (although I can't imagine why). But, give him his due, he touched her nose before sauntering away again in ill-disguised relief.

Jessie, meanwhile, was totally baffled by the signals he was giving off, and tried to hide behind me.

As I continued on my walk, I thought particularly of the the squealer. Because he was willing to try, I really believe he and Jessie could have connected, had we had enough time before the school bell for me to explain what her body language means. The non-squealer I'm less sure about.

Because of my different cultural background, there have been times when I have said something that has left British people looking at me blankly, even though I have spoken in English, which is my mother-tongue. I have had to find another way to express myself, some sort of common ground, in order to be understood. It has been up to me, as the outsider to learn how to express myself within the British idiom.

As learning professionals, we tend to come at things from a different angle, but, when we try to express our views to management, we are often met with blank stares. User generated what? Social mediums? Are you suggested a seance? Discussion forums? What on earth have they got to do with training? Why can't you just write me a course like I asked you to do? Why do have to complicate things by talking about wickets and blodgers?

We need to find a way to express ourselves that makes sense. We need to find the common ground. And, it will be up to us to learn their idiom because I promise you, precious few corporate managers have the slightest interest in learning L&D-ish!

No comments: