Learning All You Can From Others

I listen to a dozen hours of podcasts every week on average. A lot of them are about sports, especially the NBA. Others relate to current events and culture, like Fresh Air, On The Media, and This American Life. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up, and I find myself with episodes I consider deleting. To decide, I often ask, “Will I learn something by listening to this episode?” If the answer is yes, I keep it; otherwise, I delete with no regrets. (Okay, maybe a few regrets.)

There’s value in approaching interactions with others in the same way: What can I learn by interacting with this person? When you talk about yourself, you learn very little. But when you encourage others to talk about themselves, you may learn a lot.

Be a student of the other person as you encourage them to talk about themselves.

Ideally, you will learn information and perspectives you didn’t know before. It’s easy to want a person to keep talking about themselves and what they know when you are learning new things from them. Sometimes we have great conversations where we request “tell me more!” and mean it.

If the conversation isn’t that good, then at least you are learning something about the person. For example, you might learn the person has under-developed opinions about issues. Or you might learn that the person makes quick decisions, without considering the consequences. Information like this may be useful to you later if and when you interact with this person again.

So get the person talking about themselves. Not only will it help the person grow to like you, it will also help you learn new things. And get them talking by asking questions! It shows your interest and allows you to steer the conversation so you can learn even more.