Get the Most From Training: Listen More, Talk Less

Sheriff Jim Wilson's Take from the NRA's Shooting Illustrated

One time I was working with a film crew out here in the desert Southwest. These folks were a long way from home and not at all familiar with my part of the country. So I gave them a brief talk about rattlesnakes and how to keep from being bitten by being cautious and watchful. Almost to the man, their response was to tell me snake stories from back home. All of which, though it might have been interesting, had little to do with my trying to keep them safe and healthy long enough to get our work done.

I have noticed this same phenomenon regularly on social media. A qualified trainer or firearms authority will offer a very good piece of information about an important technique or skill that could be life-saving. Instead of asking questions to clarify and learn, those responding on social media usually start telling stuff about themselves and what they have done.

We’ve all sat in a class with someone who never raises their hand to ask a question, but always to tell something. A person like that can often ruin what would otherwise be a good learning experience. It’s as if people like this think they are junior instructors instead of students. And then, of course, there’s the “old guard” who are convinced that no young whipper snapper is going to teach them anything of value, “Hell, I was packing a gun while they were still in diapers!”

It’s as if we have forgotten that it’s OK to ask questions and learn. It’s perfectly all right to say, “Tell me that one more time,” or “Please show that to me again?”  

This is not a mark against one personally, nor is it a sign of a lack of ability. What it shows is a student who’s dedicated to learning and improving their craft. There are very few experts in personal defense and defensive firearms. We are all students—at different levels, maybe—but all students. We learn by listening, watching, and reading.

That’s why I, and many other shooters who are my age, still take regular training classes. And I will frankly admit that I steal good ideas wherever I can find them—even from young whipper snappers. I may be jealous of their youth, but I’ll steal the technique in a minute if it makes me a better shooter or fighter.

The important thing for all of us to remember is that we learn by listening, not by talking.

A version of this article appeared in Shooting Illustrated.

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