What You Don’t Know You Don’t Know

We learn incrementally. I often use the image of an onion: Learning looks like peeling back layers, not “aha moments” that bring instant clarity. Yet, when dealing with others we often expect them to make instantaneous leaps. We toss out a well-crafted zinger and think they’ll jump on board. And it frustrates them.

People need to feel heard.

When someone is speaking, we’re often just looking for the next chance to respond with what we want to say on the matter. We’re looking for a chance to continue the point we were making when they cut us off. We’re practicing the response in our heads, waiting for them to take a breath and give us a chance to toss it out there.

When you have a quick response for everything they say, you’re not actually helping. You’re frustrating them by making them feel unheard.

We learn in increments.

Remember the last time you learned something big. Did it happen in a moment? Were you instantly convinced of an idea, and adopted it whole-heartedly? Of course not. Everything in your head and heart came there by way of a long journey. A journey of incremental progress.

Stop trying to create “eureka” moments in other people’s lives.

Bring them on the journey that caused you to understand. They only need a nugget today, and then another tomorrow.

Start with listening. You’d be shocked to learn the things that people are actually concerned about, or the things they already think (those things you didn’t know you didn’t know).

My new goal: when someone finishes speaking, keep my thoughts to myself. At least long enough to follow up with “what I hear you saying is…”

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