‘I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think’ – Socrates

Quotes, whether from modern philosophers or legends like Socrates, need to be read with an open mind but most importantly, analyzed using everyday examples!

The title in this blog is one of my favorite quotes. Similar quotes come from Galileo and Einstein, which say:

Galileo – You cannot teach people anything. You can only help them discover it within themselves.

Einstein – I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.

Although these quotes talk about teaching, this post is actually not directed to teachers or academics but more so to our everyday adult life. Too often we try to “teach people” what we think of as valuable lessons. And most times we tend to feel exhausted, frustrated and “not understood” at the end of it all.

Below are some common examples where we try to teach people:

  • Doing something differently just because we think it’s a better way
  • Trying to make them understand our way of thinking
  • Even though they can’t stop abusive behavior (e.g. smoking) we tend to point out what is wrong and how to fix it
  • Handing out opinions for various problem-solving situations as if we have expertise in everything
  • Giving out relationship advise

If you’ve ever caught yourself saying, “I told him to do X a million times but he just won’t listen!” or “I tried helping but it feels like nothing I say gets heard” then you understand how it feels when the person you are trying to teach keeps doing things their own way.

It is much more powerful for them to firstly, want to change and secondly, accept new behavior/action as if it’s their own!

The bottom line is nobody will change just because you tell them. They will act on it only after the thought has marinated in their brains and filtered through to their way of thinking; and all this, not because you taught them, but because you made them think!

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