On the importance of ignorance and empathy – #TBCtraining and swanning around

One of the ways we fail (and there are many) is when we don’t understand/contain our emotions around failure.  Yesterday at the training session for ‘Brilliant Club’ (a very cool charity which aims to get students who wouldn’t otherwise go to ‘top’ universities, the trainer said at one point ‘get a piece of A4 paper, make an origami swan. You have two minutes.’

Because Origami Swans are the deal-breaker for admissions tutors at Oxbridge and we’ll spend weeks at schools teaching this crucial skill?

Not quite.

It was, of course, a way of forcing us to think about how what is blindingly obvious and easy to someone who knows how to do summat, is basically impossible for a ‘newbie’.

And there was a mix of responses. Some diligently tried (there were some very odd swans/failures) while others pushed back, since the task was clearly impossible, and ‘stupid’  (explaining why we were being asked to do this “impossible” task – to then reflect on the emotions and behaviours it provoked – would have defeated its purpose of course).

Anyway, I have since found a youtube video that is about 90 seconds long. Origami swans are easy as, ONCE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING.

It put me in mind of other training I’ve had where (to a whole room) trainers have tried to get us to empathise with other people.

As a physiotherapy undergraduate we had an OT come in and do a session on what it’s like to be old.  She turned up the music (I think) faced away from us and quietly told us to do something, and most of us didn’t even hear her.

Then there was a CORKER when I was doing stewards training one time.  A group of us was all given a card, which with a part of a bigger picture. We could describe what was on the card, but not show anyone. The task was to figure out what the picture was.  I completely stuffed it up, because I didn’t listen to the right people (the trainer had deliberately given crucial cards to people who were not assertive, and I was even more full of myself then than I am now (shudders at thought of 35 year old self, would punch if had time machine).

There was even an episode of Happy Days where the Fonz is forced to confront his ageism. True story.

The point being: if you want to help people (and be helped by them, obvs), you need to see the world through their eyes.  Things that are ‘obvious’ are only obvious in hindsight.  You can say that all you like, but failure to make an origami swan in two minutes (where you only actually need about thirty seconds if you know what you’re doing), is a very very good way of bringing that point home…


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