I Can Always Learn from Someone
As someone who has struggled with social anxiety, one on one or small group conversations can sometimes be really hard for me. I start to worry too much about what I’ll say in response or worry about offending the other person when they disagree with me. At other times, I’m just not as interested in what the other person is talking about. In these moments, I am forgetting what is really important, the other person.
So, here’s one thing that helps me to keep things in perspective and focus more on what is going on with others around me, I can always learn from someone.
When we focus more on what we can learn from another person, our focus turns away from our own self-doubt and anxiety and turns towards connecting with the person with whom we are communicating. We are less concerned with being right and instead seek to understand. The person becomes our focus.
Can you imagine what your conversations would be like if you sought to learn something from each person that you spoke to? Take a moment and envision just that. How would the conversation change? Would you ask more questions? Would you be more willing to hear someone out? Would you feel more connected to them?
Can you see the benefit of seeking to learn from others?
Even with an understanding that there is always something you can learn from someone; it can still be hard to focus. Our feelings and thoughts get in our way such as:
I don’t have time for this
For me this happens when I am trying to get things crossed off my to-do list and my kids come up to me. For example, my 7-year-old will come running up to me talking about what she learned in class. I can either listen and nod my head, somewhat brushing it off because I’ve already been through 2nd grade or I can seek to learn. When I seek to learn I become more engaged, I listen with the intent to understand her, to see why she is so excited and to be excited with her. I can set aside the things that don’t matter as much and focus on the person who does matter to me.
Feelings of offense (especially when someone believes differently from you)
In my life coach training, I had to do an exercise where I mirrored someone who was talking about something that I disagreed with. It was an interesting exercise that I thought would be really difficult and kind of awkward to do. However, what I found was that I became more interested in what that person had to say. I began to ask questions about why they thought the way that they did and learned more about them. This experience helped d me to see that even though we may disagree with someone, we can still learn something from them.
Seeking to learn something from another person who disagrees with us also reminds us that it’s not about us. The person is not deliberately saying things that are at dissonance with the way you think and what you believe. They are a human being with their own thoughts, experiences and beliefs. When we seek to always learn from others, we are seeking to see them as human beings with whom we can then connect with and learn from.
Anxiety about what to say
In conversations with friends and acquaintances, there will be times when I start to worry about what to say next to keep the conversation flowing or that I will say the wrong thing. In these moments I become more concerned about myself than what the other person is saying. Reminding myself that I am there to learn about the other person helps me to re-center my thoughts and focus on what really matters, building that connection with the other person.
As you seek to learn you will be able to have more meaningful conversations. You will feel less offense when someone disagrees with you. You will be less concerned with what you might say in response. In the process you become more engaged in the conversation. A stronger connection will be made and you‘ll come away from the experience with a greater fulfillment from having learned more about the other person and what they had to say.
Other thoughts that help with conversations
Learn not preach – Helps you focus on understanding the other person rather than teaching them. Teaching them without that understanding could drive them away
Seek to understand – If you ultimately want to be heard you must first hear them
Connect and reflect – The conversation is about connecting with another and then reflecting on what they have said
Every person is important – We are all children of God, each of us matters
What matters most in this moment – The connection being made is more important than whatever else you have going on
I CAN ALWAYS LEARN FROM SOMEONE
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