I go to a yoga institute. A few yoga instructors swap schedules for a particular time in a way that makes us experience all of them equally.
There is a Thai instructor for whom English is not the first language. She is excellent in caring for our particular needs. And she is very sensitive about in-the-moment attention we all require. I found it a little difficult to pick up her accented English initially. With time, it has become better. All it really required was for me to become an alert & aware listener. When I started paying complete attention, I could understand everything she speaks!
The other instructors speak English that is easy to pick up.
How does one assess the Thai instructor as a yoga instructor?
All instructors are at par with each other in terms of expected competence. They all do their work in a way that leaves everybody content. However, a cursory participant out there for just one day would just make a quiet mention of how he or she struggled to pick up the english accent of the Thai instructor. No doubt, this participant would have had no such issue with the other instructors.
If I deeply reflect on this instructor, I realize that a non-negotiable emphasis on fluency of language & ease of understanding can make us adopt a blinkered approach. In every session of hers, I become better not just at yoga but also at listening. The better I become at listening, I more I realize the problem was never with her in the first place! I was not used to English being spoken in different accents. It was my notion of being a customer who pays that made me at some level to resist putting in an effort to listen & to understand.
If I were to rank the instructors on how empathetic & sensitive they are to the yoga students, I find myself rating the Thai instructor just a notch above others. Can it be that her English accent positively contributes to this deeper empathy & sensitivity? Perhaps, she knows there are people like me who find it difficult to understand her. And so, she engages even more committedly. If that is the case, should one regard her english language communication as a mere weakness, as a complete liability?
There you have it. The Thai instructor makes me better at listening & mindful awareness. It is a dimension of performance I don’t even pursue if I think of myself as a demanding customer or as a supervisor who has nothing to learn from her. She makes me better if I invest myself in some capacity without thinking who owes what to whom.
Does she then need to improve? Who can argue against feedback? If people say she is difficult to understand, she has to take note. The point is there are other ways to handle this.
We can challenge ourselves to see if we can improve ourselves first. Can we look at how we can change ourselves because the problem and opportunity to improve might be ours too!
We can appreciate how the so-called improvement area is actually a source of strength, the wellspring of her committed effort. We want to safeguard this wellspring even as we help her improve. This requires us to learn the same deeper empathy & sensitivity that she is such a wonderful role-model of.
The circle becomes complete!