Tuesday, December 3, 2013

We Can Learn from People Whom We Naturally Think Can't Teach Us Anything

Throughout my life, I have found the most profound insights often come from people from whom I naturally would not expect to be able to learn anything – and they have come almost always when I am in the right frame of mind to listen carefully to what someone is trying to say and not get so caught up in crafting a response that I forget to listen to everything they say prior to reaching a conclusion about what I assume they are going to say. In other words, these insights come when I am more focused on understanding than arguing or being understood. 

For example, I have had experiences of not liking what someone has said in General Conference and then, when I read the talks afterward, realizing they really didn’t say what I thought while listening to the talks live. In nearly all cases, the disconnect was my focusing so intently on one statement that I failed to hear the surrounding statements or consider context enough to realize that I had misconstrued the original statement and turned it into something other than what had been intended. That same experience has occurred in conversations with fellow members, with talks they give in Sacrament Meeting, with co-workers, with my wife and children, while reading blog posts and comments, etc – and it generally is because I was thinking of a response before they were done talking or before I was done reading.

If it happens with people from whom I want to learn, I know it happens even more frequently with people from whom I am not as inclined naturally to want to learn.

I have learned over the years to try to listen to everyone (their voice, in person, and their words, in a forum like this) with the primary purpose of learning from them rather than arguing with them - and, while I am not yet perfect at it, the result has been amazing to me. I truly have been able to learn from people from whom I didn't expect to learn anything.

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