Learning a new skill from an expert is almost always a great privilege.
Learning from an expert without having language as the prime communication method adds many impactful layers to the experience. Beginning Andean knitting in Peru was one of the greatest transformative experiences of my life. My teacher was a lovely Quechuan woman from the remote highlands. Her native local tongue was clearly not one that could deliver hints of meaning, as experienced with knowledge of the romance languages. Our communication was exclusively nonverbal.
Learning apart from the spoken word brings so many dimensions to taking on a new skill. Though I anticipated this before beginning this trip, nothing ever prepared me for this primal shift. I never expected the ways in which this special time affected me. Sitting with my newfound friend and watching her slowly demonstrate the steps then pausing and waiting for me to try to mimic her movements was immensely maternal. My subconscious memory must have traveled back to when I learned as an infant. Perhaps infancy is the only time when most have experienced nonverbal learning! I felt incredibly peaceful and not the slightest bit frustrated as I do sometimes when trying new things. I acquired an immediate and deep connection with this Quechuan woman. The atmosphere was thick with the sense of being in the midst of a life-changing event. I will never forget it and I can close my eyes and be back in the moment immediately!
Thinking about it, when was the last time you learned without language?
Apart from learning a second language by immersion, most of us would likely reply that it was back before our most cognitive recollections. Imagine the implications of returning to learning a new skill without the luxury of spoken communication at this very moment in your life! Could your knowledge be absorbed in unexpected new ways by nonverbal learning means?
When you learn a new skill in a nonverbal way, perhaps it elicits a different perspective derived from other cognitive processes. As Cornell University explains, skill mastery is associated with increased activity in areas of the brain not engaged in skill performance, and this shift can be detected in large-scale networks of the brain. During Studies there, increased brain activity was found after training, in the default network that is involved in self-reflective activities, including future planning and even daydreaming.
Putting it All Together
To summarize, I’ve verbalized as effectively as possible my recent experiences in nonverbal learning. Quite appropriately, words merely deliver a fraction of all I gained from learning without the use of words. As a result, I challenge each of us to find opportunities for absolute nonverbal communications. Whether you seek an opportunity to learn a new skill, enhance a relationship or simply experiment with a friend over coffee, it will truly promote a unique experience. Perhaps it will even be a life-changing event as it was for me!