Every discussion is a great occasion to become a little bit smarter. And enlightenment compounds.
Yet we too often use conversations to send signals of our greatness and achievements (with more a less subtlety).
This may temporarily make you feel good. But the status game is a zero-sum game that can even turn negative in the long run.
Most people don’t care about how good you are. They may care about you as an individual, about what you know, about how you think, but probably not as much about how achieved you are.
If you don’t get anything out of a conversation, it is because you either assumed you couldn’t possibly learn anything from that person, or you talked too much (or a mix of both).
The truth is: anybody, no matter who they are and what they do, can offer at least one of the following:
an interesting story to tell,
some knowledge you don’t have,
or would be happy to do something to help you.
But to get there, you have to listen.
You have to be empathetic.
You have to be truly immersed into the conversation without thinking about what you want to say next.
You have to ask Good questions.
You have to be curious and in search of learning something new.
Having good conversations is not just something you do with people you look up to, but something you should apply with everyone: the new intern, your taxi driver, your waiter, even your kids.
Listen to their story.
Be fully immersed.
Ask them Good questions.
Pause after they finished talking, in case they have something else to say.
And be very selective in what you say (aka “don’t talk too much).
Heuristic: the smartest person in the room is often the one who talks the least (the opposite is not necessarily true).