Stay open to learning
Do you actively let others teach you about life? Do you stop for a moment and ask yourself what someone else knows that you don’t know? Do you actively ask questions that allow others to teach you what they know? No? Keep reading:
Consider Learning by Observing
Some self-development guru’s suggest finding someone that you know and respect.
Then they want you to watch and learn how these people think and act. The guru’s are suggesting that as you understand what these people say to themselves, how they succeed, and how they live their life, you can duplicate it and improve your life.
I would like to suggest going a step further. What I would like for you to do is to stay open to learning from everyone.
It really isn’t that difficult. Allow yourself to notice when someone or something strikes you. Recently the daughter of a friend of mine responded to one of my blogs by saying “Wow. Complain about something like traffic now.” After I stopped laughing, I remembered the last time I had gotten together with her and her father.
I remembered an aliveness in her that I hadn’t seen before. She was clearly happier. She knew how to take her life less seriously and to have fun. I began to think back to what I had noticed. I began to remember ways in which she was approaching life that allowed her to enjoy it more. I allowed her to teach me about enjoying life.
Commit to Curiosity and Verifying Your Hunches
Often people don’t know they are teaching you. For example, I have made a commitment to become more global in my friendships.
I noticed recently that some of my international friends were backing off and not responding to some of my messages, status updates and blogs. So I started asking myself a few questions.
Am I missing cultural clues? Do they not like what I am saying, but are politely deciding not to comment? As I am writing this blog I think I figured out part of the answer.
Some of the people who are more erratic about writing back do not know English well. I wonder if several of them are attempting to hide their lack of English skills.
I wonder if I may have been overwhelming them, even though that is something I would never do on purpose. I believe I have figured it out. But the next step is to check my conclusion. Whenever we believe we have figured something out about a person, it’s incredibly important to check it out.
Don’t just make guesses. This is called mind reading! Mind reading plus confirming whether or not we are accurate leads to intuitive wisdom. When it is not checked out, it leads to stereotyping and guessing.
Take the Relationship Challenge
There is another way I would like for you to go beyond some of the current guru’s approaches. Take responsibility for the relationship and for the communication. For many people, once they think they know something, they will either tell it like it is or withhold their opinions.
For me, when you take responsibility for the relationship, you shape your communication so the other person can hear the message you are sending. You may need to go back to observing and thinking before you talk. Once you decide what the situation is and what you need to tell them, then you need to determine how to tell them.
What do you know about them? How do they respond to direct, accurate information?
I love quick direct, accurate communications. However, being a therapist has taught me that we often need to slow down and say something gently and gradually. I call this planting the seed. Stay open to learning.
Let’s return to the example above. If I believe that someone is embarrassed about not being better at English, then I can’t just say “Are you embarrassed about your English skills? Is that keeping you from talking more to me?” First I’m changing the way I write so it will be easier to translate. Then I am going to give them less content to translate. I am going to find some ways to let them describe their English skills and how frustrating translating into English can be. When we take on the responsibility for effectively conveying the message, people begin to feel like you “get them” or that they are deeply understood. Being deeply understood is one of the most powerfully connecting ways to be in relationship.
Why Make this Effort
There is wisdom all around us. All we need to do is pause and allow people’s words to touch us and change us.
I know this might seem like a great deal of work. We have the rest of our lives. Let’s spend time with these skills from time to time. Gradually we will transform our own life and our relationships. And if enough of us do this we might help the world be a little better place.
Allen Rader, LCSW – Allen is a therapist, entrepreneur and founder of ATS Wellness and Therapy: therapy and wellness strategies and occasionally writes for Indyatwork.com, a business blog for the Indianapolis community. He enjoys assisting people in transforming their lives rather than just learning to cope with the challenges of life.