Browsing LinkedIn the other day, I came across a well-known business school announcing their participation in a Learning Technologies conference. It reminded me of several recent conversations with clients asking for online or virtual solutions to their learning and development objectives.
I’m a fan of technology in general, and the internet in particular. How did we ever get anything done, or find anything out, or navigate from A to B, without it? And yes, I was a functioning adult before the internet really took off, so you’d think I might be a bit nostalgic for the old days - but I’m not, even though we are now beginning to understand the downsides of this incredibly powerful technology.
However, I notice an instinctive shudder when clients ask how I can deliver my work through digital technologies. I understand the drivers of this kind of question - cheaper, more accessible to more people, available when it suits the learner, not the deliverer - especially in our global, always-on, cost-conscious business world.
It set me thinking about the slow food movement and also those videos of rivers that just go on and on and on (I’m listening to one as I type this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvjMgVS6kng) as antidotes to stressful, unhealthy lifestyles. It also reminded me of one of the most profound experiences I’ve had recently - sitting round a camp fire with a small group led by a folk musician talking and singing about nightingales, and then taking us for a walk in the pitch dark (no torches, no mobile phones, just you and the vague outline of the person in front of you) in the dead of night, to sit under a bush and listen to actual nightingales singing and singing, despite a bunch of noisy humans thrashing through their habitat. It was magical, and no internet video or Skype connection can convey quite how moving and profound it was. (Click here for The Nest Colllective and Sam’s Lee’s Singing With Nightingales events https://www.singingwithnightingales.com/)
I believe one of the greatest benefits of coaching is the space it provides to slow down, pause, and to reflect calmly and deeply on your experience in order to learn what it has to teach. Much of the work I do is about re-connecting people with their bodies as a source of deep knowledge about who they are and what really matters. And to do that properly, you need to be in the same room, watching each other, experiencing each other, learning to tune in to the wisdom we hold in our muscles, neurons and cells as well as in our intellectual minds. Learning how your body responds physically and emotionally when you are triggered by a challenge or a threat, or a gesture of intimacy and connection. The trust that comes from being able to look into someone’s eyes while you talk about your life and your experiences and know you are being heard and acknowledged. Yes, I do coaching sessions by phone and over Skype, Zoom and other video conferencing packages, and yes, lots of value comes from them. But in my view, nothing beats face-to-face, physical connection with another human being when we’re doing the kind of deep learning that brings about fundamental insights and unlocks the potential for deep-seated, profound change.
So I’m becoming an advocate for “slow learning” – and, indeed, slow living. Take time out, for yourself and your wellbeing. Sit with others, connect with them, listen, watch and learn from, and with, them. Take pleasure in the simple experience of being physically and emotionally with another human being, and in learning with and from them.