Tim and Lilly
Tim and Lilly


You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks!

Canada Family Life Lessons Communication

As you can see from my recent photos, I’m no spring chicken. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that even as you and I age, our brains remain malleable and open to learning. Sometimes we acquire greater wisdom about important things that we once took for granted but did not fully appreciate in our younger years, proving indeed that one can teach an old dog new tricks.

This old dog very recently learned a couple of important “new tricks.”

Moira and I were returning home after enjoying a wonderful dinner with good friends. The gathering, from my perspective, had been a lot of fun and a reminder of just how much we had missed seeing friends because of the pandemic lockdown. The evening had been full of vibrant conversation and good humour, no doubt aided by a few glasses of wine.

On the way home in the car, I remarked to Moira, “That was a great evening!” I can't remember exactly what she said in response, but there was no doubt from her tone that she did not share my opinion.

With further probing, I learned that the problem had been me. Imagine me being the problem! In Moira’s view, I had been boisterously dominating the conversation to the point that she could not get a single word in edgewise.

On sober reflection, it was not difficult for me to see that I had struck out in two respects: dominating the conversation to Moira’s exclusion, and then becoming defensively aggressive when I was challenged about my egocentric behaviour.

Suffice it to say that this incident was an important reminder for me to make a more conscious effort to listen attentively and manage my natural extroversion to make space for others (old dog trick #1). I still have to learn to “shut up and listen,” especially when communicating with those who are more introverted.

The other not-so-admirable habit that I’m still working on is that I get “aggressively defensive” in response to feeling criticized (old dog trick #2).

I am getting better at active listening and being less aggressively defensive. But I have a long way to go before I can say that I’m really good at both these critically important communication skills. I recognize that it’s a process and that it will take time to master these tricks.

All the same, I am grateful to know that despite my age, it’s possible to teach an old dog new tricks. I continue to be inspired by Michelangelo, who reportedly said, at the tender age of 86, “Ancora imparo!”—“I am still learning!”