When are you the most unteachable? The Top 10 Times My Teachability Tanks

I can be unteachable.

But if you are anything like me, there are times when you aren’t very teachable, either. We try to be open; we try to be humble. But sometimes, our teachability tanks.

Charlie BrownAnd while there are legitimate times to refuse teaching, teachability is critical to growth in any area of our life: spiritual, relational, vocational, physical or intellectual.

So when are you the most un-teachable? Knowing those times when you are most resistant to learning can help you become more teachable. When I thought about my own life, I identified at least 10 times when my teachablility tanks.

My Teachability Tanks . . .
  1. When I think I already know what I need to know.  If I don’t think I need any more information, I find myself frustrated by an ongoing lecture on what I’m supposed to be doing. While you could say this is pure arrogance, that’s not always the case–perhaps I really do know what I’m supposed to know. Either way, my openness to more teaching goes down when I think I already got what I need.
  2. When I don’t trust the teacher. Trust is huge. If we don’t think the person teaching us is credible, then why would we be open to their teaching? And while it is possible to learn from anyone, we are wise to take precautions if the person character or teaching isn’t trustworthy. Trust and teachability go hand in hand.
  3. When I already feel like I’ve tried everything and it hasn’t worked. In areas of struggle (areas we need help the most!), we can feel so discouraged that we resist more teaching. We can feel overwhelmed and inadequate. We can feel we’ve been there/done that and already know there’s no hope. It’s hard to learn anything without hope.
  4. When I’m too proud to admit I need help. Pride is the bane of teachability. And when asking for help exposes my ignorance and wounds my self-pride, I tend to bluff and hide and fake. Admitting I need help takes humility, and we can all struggle with that. I’ve written about some of the reasons we resist getting good advice here.
  5. When I don’t want to change what’s “sort of working” for fear that things could get worse. There are times when life is such a delicate balance that we fear any kind of change, not because we don’t want our situation to get better but because we are afraid that things could get worse. I’ve seen this in marriages, churches and work relationships. Fear of change makes me unteachable.
  6. When I like the way things are, even if I’m told it could be better. Unlike the previous resistance based on fear, we can be unteachable because we are comfortable with the way things are. Oh, they may not be perfect. Yes, I know it could be a bit better. But I like things the way they are. The hardest person to teach is the person who is unquestionably comfortable in the status quo.
  7. Pressure to LearnWhen I feel pressured to learn. Of course, some of us operate well under pressure, and we can all think of instances where the pressure to perform at work or at school really did kick us into learning mode. But there are also times when I’m less teachable when I feel the pressure to learn, especially if it’s something I’m not convinced I need.  Think: elementary school student learning math–the pressure to learn may actually create more resistance to learning.
  8. When I’m too busy and distracted. One of the challenges to ongoing personal growth and learning–a practice I’m deeply committed to–is the level of our busyness and distraction. The busier I am, the less I read. The more distracted I am, the less I’m open to learning throughout my day. The faster I fly, the less I listen. Too much piled on the plate scrapes learning in the trash. 
  9. When I’m not convinced I need to change. How can I be taught if I refuse to acknowledge my need to learn or change or grow? Even if an area of growth is brought to my attention, if I’m not convinced of that need, I won’t be open to learning. People have to see the need for change before change can occur.
  10. When I refuse to listen to new information or ideas. I become unteachable when I’m closed to the new. When we refuse to be open to anything outside of ourselves and what we already believe, it’s tough to see change come. In my own life, this is particularly true when it involves something I feel strongly about–I resist hearing any ideas that might challenge my own dearly held position.  My teachability tanks.

So what about you?

  • When are you most unteachable and why?
  • What is the difference between legitimate reasons for refusing to be taught and becoming an unteachable person?

2 thoughts on “When are you the most unteachable? The Top 10 Times My Teachability Tanks”

  1. Impressive list! Would have to admit all of the above at one time or another. Our Lord is patient. He always gets through to me at some point…often after I acknowledge my stopped up ‘ears’. : )

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