Everyone You Will Ever Meet Knows Something You Don’t

Use every interaction as an opportunity to learn something new.

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“People love to talk but hate to listen. Listening is not merely not talking, though even that is beyond most of our powers; it means taking a vigorous, human interest in what is being told us. You can listen like a blank wall or like a splendid auditorium where every sound comes back fuller and richer.” — Alice Duer Miller

I want to be honest with you. For a while, I used to think I was correct all the time and knew absolutely everything. I genuinely thought that anyone who disagreed with me was misinformed and that it was my job to help them find the truth. Put simply, I was arrogant.

It didn’t matter if it was politics, “facts” about the world, or anything else. If I thought it was true, it must have been. And although I’d like to tell you that my inflated sense of self-worth disappeared overnight, it didn’t. Instead, it took many months to realize that I wasn’t always right about everything.

So what changed? I began to realize that everyone knows something I don’t. Whether it’s engineering, science, nature, or any other subject, every person on this planet has spent time learning about something they find meaningful.

Many people (like my past self) love to open their mouths and attempt to convince people that they’re correct during a conversation. But a much better strategy is to do the complete opposite: open your mind and listen.

By using every interaction as an opportunity to learn something new, I’ve managed to improve my relationships, become more empathetic, and gain an entirely new perspective on the world.

Here’s how you can do the same.

Listen To Someone’s Opinion Without Judgement.

You’re a product of your past experiences. And so are they. Expecting to agree with each other on everything would be unrealistic. However, you can certainly try to understand someone’s perspective and why they think a certain way.

I recently made a few friends who grew up in conservative towns. We disagree on almost everything when it comes to politics. However, we understand that our views are merely a product of our past experiences and background. Thus, we don’t try to convince each other that we have the “correct” opinion.

Good listeners practice acceptance all the time. Instead of judging someone during a conversation, they make an effort to understand the rationale behind their thoughts & ideas. Quoting an article published by Harvard Business Review:

“Show that you understand his or her strengths, weaknesses, goals, hopes, priorities, needs, limitations, fears, and concerns. In addition, you demonstrate that you’re willing to connect with them on a personal level. When you do this right, you’ll hear people say things like, “You really get me!” or “You actually understand where I’m coming from on this.”

The vast majority of people have good intentions. So try to assume that the person you’re talking to does, as well. The alternative is believing they’re an evil person who wants to destroy the world and watch it burn.

Resist The Desire To Interrupt Someone Else.

Look, I know it’s tempting. When someone says something you think is false, it’s easy to tear down their argument and point out every tiny mistake they made.

But what good does that serve? Of course, you might look smart or somewhat intelligent for ten seconds during a conversation. However, interrupting someone just shows a complete lack of respect for the other person. Quoting an article published by VeryWellMind:

“Everyone wants to feel heard. And if you feel like you’re not, then it can begin to erode the relationship. After all, consistent interruptions by the same person not only feel like a lack of respect for you and your thoughts, but they also demonstrate apparent self-centeredness. Interruptions also can make you feel insignificant and unimportant — that what you are trying to say isn’t worthy of being listened to.”

Whenever you find yourself in a conversation, resist the desire to interrupt the other person. Pay genuine attention to what they have to say. Because when you make an effort to listen intently to someone else’s opinion, they’ll be much more likely to reciprocate.

Ask Clarifying Questions To Show Your Curiosity.

Good listeners learn from other people by asking clarifying questions to better understand a subject or opinion. Quoting an article published by Harvard Business Review:

“By asking questions, we naturally improve our emotional intelligence, which in turn makes us better questioners — a virtuous cycle.”

Since I began asking more questions during a conversation, I’ve found it much easier to understand other people’s points of view accurately. After all, I’m no longer making assumptions or misinterpreting what they say. Whenever I don’t understand something they said, I tell them.

If you’re unsure about something, ask a few questions. It’s a great way to show the other person you’re genuinely interested in whatever they say during a conversation.

My friend, you don’t have to agree with everyone all the time. That’s unrealistic. But it’s important to remember that every single person you’ll ever meet knows something you don’t. So if you want to learn more about the world, it’s a good idea to use every interaction as an opportunity to learn something new.

I’m going to leave you with a beautiful quote from Karl A. Menniger, who perfectly sums up what I’m trying to say:

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.”

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