The Chocolate Ice Cream, The Hero, The Insight And The Human's 'Being'

When the insight hit me last week I happened to be ordering ice cream for my daughter. There we were, in Spain, by the sea front, enjoying the sun, having fun, buying a chocolate cone and not really looking for or expecting any special insights into life. But sometimes that’s the way it happens. And it did happen. Earlier in the week I’d been in a similar situation – speaking broken Spanish to a Spaniard who was speaking back to me in very broken English and using body language to get the point across. That day my daughter had given me a tough question to ask the Spanish lady. And I guess that’s where the insight really began. ‘Ask if the watch is waterproof?’ my eight year old said. I looked at the price. Just 8 Euros. No way was it waterproof. ‘But ask,’ she insisted. That’s when doubt hit me in the gut. I didn’t know how to say ‘Is this waterproof’ in Spanish? I could tell the shop assistant didn’t do English well and right about then my confidence dipped. I felt lost. So I looked at my daughter, stern faced, hoping she’d relent if I could brow beat her. I told her, no way for 8 Euros was that watch going to be waterproof. Did she relent? No. Why not? Because, no great teacher ever let’s you off the hook. ‘Daaad, just ask.’ Big eyes, smile, massive pressure: ‘You’re my hero,’ she added for good measure. That’s when I heard the lady behind me say ‘Ah’. And that’s when I realised that I was front of the queue. Eloquence out the window, I jabbed a finger at the watch and blurted out my question. The shop assistant looked at me. She made a swimming gesture and said, ‘No.’ She said a word I knew. ‘Bath,’ I said translating. ‘Yes’ she said. ‘Okay in bath, but not – ‘ she made the swimming gesture again. My daughter grinned and opened her purse. I breathed a sigh of relief. But what has this got to do with the insight I had while buying chocolate ice cream? I became aware of how my confidence dips when language becomes a perceived barrier. I became aware of how I became almost Neanderthal, trying to manipulate my daughter through tone and body language and how I jabbed at the things and forgot my usual social grace. Little wonder then when the Japanese come to London, or the Germans are in town – and even when I go to Spain – that the foreigners can appear a bit rude! Maybe they’re all feeling a little like I felt. In fact maybe that’s how some children feel – our own, or sometimes kids we meet in the street. Maybe they don’t fully understand the language, maybe they forget social grace. At times it can be body language that can get us through. You can say pretty much all that’s worth saying with your body, and, but for a few hand gestures, body language is international. But that’s not all I want to share with you on my insight. Beyond body language, amongst my new awareness of how I feel when the perceived barrier of language comes up, there is something I will remember. Whatever language we speak, whatever country we’re from, whatever our culture or religion, we all share one thing – we’re human. And more important than any language, is the language of humans ‘being’. We’re all learning almost all the time. At times we all lose confidence, brow-beat others or muddle through situations. But if we become aware enough to catch the insights, we can reshape our understanding and grow in confidence. Last night, I watched, Bristol newspaper owner, John Dawson, breakdown many barriers, in being present and speaking from the heart in front of anyone. He demonstrated how it’s okay to feel what we feel, because often others just feel the same as us. A problem I frequently come across, through working with people, is that they are often on auto-pilot, doing the muddling through part – trying to fight their way through a barrier that only exists in their mind. Sometimes they feel that their clients seem to have vanished, the finances are in a mess, the jeans are getting too tight, the kids are always arguing or the relationships going down the pan. What I do is flip them off auto-pilot and teach them to fly the plane, using their own navigation system. With Love and good wishes Neil