January 20, 2019
Why some people have difficulty following directions
As a teacher and trainer, I have often found many people who have terrible difficulty with following what would seem to be simple directions. It's a bit of a learning disability, and it can be horribly frustrating to the person giving directions and the person who should be getting them. Of course there are a lot of reasons why someone would have difficulty following directions, but the most common one I've found is that they think that they already know the answer. Sound familiar?
I've always prided myself on breaking down even the most complex tasks using computer software to small bits. But even the smallest bit of information needs to have a place to fit in someone's mind. If there's information already there, there's no place for it. And if the information is completely wrong, the conflict in someone's mind won't allow the correct information to co-exist with it. If you follow me here, it's a two step process: the bad information has to be deleted, and the good information has to be inserted.
And that's why my students who came to a class knowing absolutely nothing about something, for example Adobe Illustrator, would learn much quicker than people whose mind were filled with a lot of information that was wrong. You may have heard it called the "empty cup" theory, where it's possible to to put more in an empty cup, but a full one has no room. It's really true.
People who already know things, but which are incorrect, have a tendency to not be able to absorb correct information, and they defend the information they have. They become belligerent, and often see everyone around them as idiots. Sadly, these people are so blinded by their incorrect information, and their anger, that they have no chance to learn until they resolve that issue, and unfortunately many don't.
So here it is: if you're someone who has difficulty following directions, and learning new things, step back. You're not stupid, you're not an idiot. In fact, you may be more intelligent than the people who you watching who are "getting it". Just give yourself permission to admit that you don't already know it all, put yourself in that vulnerable position of a student. Empty your cup.
Image at the top of this post: cartoon drawing in Adobe Illustrator.
Posted by Brad Hall