photo by Strauss Western

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

Anton Chekhov

I remember the battle with my masters advisor over my final capstone project. It was about the idea of “showing vs telling.” When I was finally able to grasp the nuance of what she was explaining to me, it not only changed the way I was writing, it changed my thinking about teaching as well. I started to think about how the concept related to how we operate in society. It seems like we have been socialized to tell and not show. 

We are encouraged to tell people what to do and what to think rather than providing with them the information, showing them the choices available, and allowing them to make a decision. The thing about this is that telling centers us and our perspective. In that moment, what matters most is what we are sharing and why we are sharing it. Showing centers the person we are providing the information to. It makes us think of the audience. We all know through the literature we have fallen in love with that showing is way more engaging and impactful. We are drawn to it. We are drawn in. It stays with us because we feel a part of the experience. We leave different. 

What I wonder about is this? if you reach folks by telling, is it because of what you are telling or because of their respect for you? It may make sense, but should you be ok with the fact that it sounds right? Shouldn’t we want them to grasp the nuance? Shouldn’t we want them to experience the discovery? Isn’t showing a way to equip them? Telling just allows them to regurgitate the outcome. Showing allows them to demonstrate and replicate the process. Isn’t that what we want? Isn’t that learning and growing?

Of course, there are times when the answer is all that’s needed. Then again, are we really taking the time to consider when that is the case and when it’s not?

Let’s show the world the beautiful and necessary that too often gets dismissed and overlooked!