I believe that everyone I’ve met has something to teach me. Truly, even the people who I’ve disagreed with have shown me a new way of thinking, a new perspective, and a new worldview. Those interactions have helped me challenge myself. They showed me the areas in which I need to grow.
I’ve noticed that, so often in life, people close themselves off to these new experiences. They want to stay rooted in their beliefs and ideas, unwilling to consider another point of view. People they argue with are wrong, and they have no interest in fostering a conversation about why they might have opposing ideas.
What would it look like to actively try to learn from those around you, rather than dismissing them? How could we be more open to engaging with new ideas and challenging perspectives, all while staying true to who we are? That’s what I want to dive into with today’s article.
Why is it Important to Learn From Those Around You?
Life (and growth) can’t happen in a vacuum. This world is filled with billions of people who have their own billions of different perspectives, ideas, and stories.
In many ways, we can’t afford not to learn from one another.
We all have goals in our lives that we want to accomplish, and we can’t do that without the help and insights of others. Learning from others helps you become a more empathetic and knowledgeable individual that is emotionally intelligent and also open to the opportunities the world has to offer.
Don’t close yourself off to these billions of perspectives. You’ll only hurt your own goals and growth in the end.
1. Actively Listen
If you truly want to learn from and grow with the information another person presents to you (whatever that information might be), the first step is to listen fully and carefully. It’s important to stop yourself from making any immediate judgments on what they’re saying. As much as possible, try to be objective and open-minded.
Active listening may look different for everybody, but try to make eye contact and face the other person. This will help get your brain engaged.
When it’s your turn to speak, don’t be afraid to paraphrase what the other person said in order to ensure that you’ve properly understood. Ask clarifying questions and be curious about the point they’re making. You want to understand as completely as possible.
2. Learn More About Their Experiences
People love to talk about themselves and their experiences.
When someone is presenting you with information, learn more about why they think that way and what experiences led them to those conclusions. Take an interest in their life, because only they have the unique perspective that they do. Without fully understanding their life experiences, you may find it harder to understand their viewpoints.
Plus, stories and storytelling encourage learning because they are easier to remember. If you can have the other person tell you about their life and experiences, this will help you learn better and recall the conversation later on.
Here are a few questions you might consider asking:
- What are your long-term goals? Where did they originate?
- How did you choose your career path?
- How did you get there?
- Who is your biggest hero?
- Which of your accomplishments are you most proud of?
- Where did you grow up?
- If you could change one thing about your life right now, what would it be?
The context of each of these questions will vary. Just make sure not to cross any lines when posing questions. Some people tend to be more private than others and will not react as well when being peppered with questions.
3. Create a Conversation
When you’re trying to learn from someone else, the discussion doesn’t have to go just one way. Be curious and interested in what they’re saying, but let yourself open up to them as well. It will most likely lead to a better conversation overall, since it tends to be more natural to both give and take when having a conversation.
Here are a few tips for mindfully having a two-way conversation, even when you’re trying to learn from someone else:
- Share your own experiences. You have plenty of ideas to add to the conversation, so don’t be afraid to open up.
- Avoid filling silences immediately. Allow them to linger in case the other person has questions for you. Or, use that time to consider if you have any clarifications about what the other person has said.
- Let the other person completely finish their thought before jumping in, and make sure to respond to what they’re saying, not what you think they’re implying.
4. Take Time to Reflect
You may end up having an incredibly interesting and useful discussion with someone, but learning from it typically comes after that conversation.
When you’ve had an interaction with another person, take an opportunity to think about the things they said, what their verbal and nonverbal communication was like, and the biggest points you want to take away from the conversation.
Journal about your thoughts, and make sure to go back and take a look at your notes every now and then. Writing down the ways that you learned from your conversation, as well as your intentions for carrying those ideas forward, will help you grow over time. It will also help you create an action plan for using this information, one that you can refer back to time and again.
The most important method for learning from another person is making the active decision that you want to do so. Be open and intentional with your interactions, but make sure that you’re properly listening to what they tell you, even if you don’t agree.
If you’re interested in learning more about growing through your interactions with others, get in touch with me. I can help you in your practice as you head down your growth journey.