Why We Should Listen and Try to Learn from Everyone!

Listen and Learn from Everyone!

Today I want to share with you one of my strongest philosophies that I feel far too few people actually heed in their own lives. This philosophy is one that I practice every single day. It has benefited me more than I could ever hope for, and sometimes in surprising ways I never thought possible had I not given it a chance. My philosophy is this:

Listen to others with an open mind and a kind heart, and seek knowledge from everyone, including those both above and below you.

I think this philosophy of mine tends to go against the grain a bit as the more commonly given advice is to seek people you look up to and learn from them. While that advice is great and I heartily agree there is a great deal to be learned from those we admire and respect, I also argue we have a great deal to learn from those we perhaps consider below us due to their particular lifestyle, position, or actions. Perhaps that could be someone in a formal hierarchy who is lower in the chain of command, or someone that lives in a manner we find immoral or whose actions we cannot find respect for. Either way, I think it’s important to always to have an open mind and open heart and be receptive of life’s lessons no matter what direction they are coming from.

The Resistance Against Open-Mindedness

I think there tends to be a lot of resistance to this. In a professional work setting, I find it rare that someone in a position higher on the ladder is receptive to the thoughts of their subordinates, and in some cases, they even abuse this authority and develop dangerous egos that become a nuisance to their teams and a self-perpetuated hindrance to their own development. In a personal setting, it’s not uncommon to discount the thoughts or feelings of someone we feel is below us. Whether it’s the brazen new intern, a homeless addict, or a corrupt and immoral individual who behavior we find intolerable… can we really learn from them??

Taking the Chance to Learn

I beg to say we can learn a lot, and I know I certainly have. Sometimes the problem is that we’re looking for the wrong type of knowledge. We’re looking to learn what types of things we SHOULD DO to be more like the other person we have respect for. Perhaps we think someone is intelligent and we want to follow their ways because then we can appear intelligent just like they are.

That is basic human nature, to try to emulate those we look up to. Often though, there is another important question we forgot to ask ourselves. What can we learn from this person that we SHOULD NOT DO? What we should do, and what we should not do… both of these questions apply to those both above and below us! By listening to everyone with an open heart and an open mind, the lessons we can learn are endless.

There are Lessons Waiting for Us Everywhere

I personally have been continually surprised over the years by some of the great lessons I’ve learned from the most unexpected places over the years, just by being open-minded and genuinely curious in all types of people.

One unique thing about people is that deep down, we all love to talk about ourselves. Yes, we’re taught to be humble and we’re advised it’s in good manners to avoid talking about ourselves, but if we’re actually prompted by others genuinely curious for us to talk about ourselves, we open up like a can of worms.

Ask someone about something they are passionate about or interested in and next thing you know they are talking a mile a minute with an excitement in their voice that turns even the most socially awkward individual into a charismatic conversationalist. We often get a similar reaction when we just ask people about their lives in a more general sense. Showing a genuine interest in someone’s life, what they do, what they want to do, how they feel about topics, it’s all you need to dive into a great well of potential knowledge and lessons to be learned. You never know what you may learn.

What Do You Have to Lose?

Which brings me to my next point that many people don’t consider at all. What is the harm in just listening? People often convince themselves so surely they can’t benefit from talking or listening to a certain person that they refuse to talk or listen to them at all!

When it comes down to it, there really is no harm in listening. Just because you listen or talk to someone does NOT mean you need to take their word or ideas as the gospel truth. Far from it! We listen openly to others, then we use our own free will and intellect to either take heed to their words or to simply just ignore it. That is the beauty of it all.

I know there are lots of times I listen to someone talk and by the end of it I just think to myself, “Wow, that person has a truly terrible idea or way of thinking,” so I simply choose not to take heed to his words or thoughts. It’s as simple as that. What matters though is that I took the time to seek knowledge from this person, I listened to them very openly, and I respected their stance whether I agreed with it or not. At the end of the day, it’s up to us to make our own choices and we do well by taking in as much source of information as possible.

Lessons from Anyone

For every terrible idea or reprehensible way of thought I’ve heard over the years, I have also found scattered within some truly great ideas or innovative ways of thought. You never know when or who it will come from, but that is why I find it just so valuable to show interest in what can be learned from anyone, no matter who they are.

I’ve had homeless people, addicts, and criminals share really deep lessons on life and happiness (stuff that is better than any motivational poster or quote you can find). Interns have taught me a trick or two just because I asked them for their help when everyone else thought they were just the “new dumb intern”.  Crotchety older folks share some of the greatest wisdom of all if you just lend an ear to listen to them a bit.  Lessons will come from the most unexpected sources, but you have to make an effort to look in those unexpected places. You won’t find the treasure you’re already standing on if you’re only looking up for it to fall from the sky.

An Example of a Lesson Learned

To wrap this up with a fairly recent anecdotal story, I clearly remember an unexpected lesson I learned from an intern that shadowed me one day at a previous job. Everyone else on my team always made fun of the poor guy and complained what an annoyance he was. I took a different approach. I went into and was truly curious to learn about him and his background.

Halfway through the day, I was trying to figure something out in Microsoft Excel that I knew you could do but I couldn’t quite get it to work right since I haven’t done it before. I’m a pretty advanced Excel user, but this was an advanced technique I never had an opportunity to try till now.

Stuck, I turned to the intern and asked him if he had any ideas even though he told me earlier in the day he really didn’t understand how to use the program well yet. I thought at the least we might be able to reason something logical out together.

Imagine my surprise when he told me exactly what to do! I was blown away… this was a very advanced technique that not even an intermediate user would likely know. More surprising though was his answer when I asked him how he knew what to do. He said he had shadowed a boss at a previous company he interned with and he oversaw that boss using the technique I was trying to use. He recalled it and was able to share it with me. A perfect example of how we truly can learn things in the most unexpected ways!

Listening and Learning

All and all, I hope you’ll take this philosophy to heart and begin to seek knowledge from not only those above you but from those all around you. Show a genuine curiosity in people, seek the lessons or wisdom they may be able to share with you and just keep an open heart and mind.

There’s no harm in showing a person respect by genuinely listening to them, and if after listening we decide their words are of no value, we simply agree to disagree and move on with our lives. That is the beauty and freedom of the philosophy. You’ll find that every once in a while, you’ll learn something amazingly brilliant or eye-opening from the most unexpected source. That my friends is a wonderful thing.

Yours Truly
– Mr. Happy Work

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Corina
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Corina

This is such a great topic. I strongly believe listening is learning. And yes, we can learn from anyone, be it by positive or negative example, the latter is also part of the learning process.

Alexis
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Alexis

I completely agree, so many people listen to respond rather than listening for understanding.

Ranelle Emma
Guest

this is so true, many people learn in different ways and each follows a different path, you never know what kind of experience they might have that could prove insightful!

Unveiled Tales
Guest

This is such great advice and I agree with it completely. I wish more people would feel this way. I whole-heartedly believe that one should treat a homeless person, the janitor, the grocery store bagger….with just as much respect as the CEO of a company. We are all people, and all deserve respect, regardless of where we are in life.

Jess
Guest

I love this! While I try hard to be sure what I’m saying is actually interesting to my listeners, it really bothers me on TV shows and things when a character (usually someone “above”) stops someone mid-sentence and says something like “so bored” when they start talking about their personal life or something important to them. Good reminder for all of us!

Elizabeth O
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Elizabeth O

This is an interesting perspective indeed. I definitely agree and think we can gain a lot of knowledge from the people around us if only we take the time to listen and learn.

claire
Guest
claire

I love this post, we always try to talk over people but it’s more important to listen.. I mean that’s why we have two ears and one mouth.

Hannah
Guest

I love the perspective and I totally agree. We should be open minded and seek for knowledge and wisdom from everyone, and not wait for the knowledge to fall from the sky, but also look ahead. Great article!

Sondria
Guest
Sondria

I think this philosophy helps everyone to practice more empathy. You’re right – you never what you can learn if you just listen more.

Aine Mulloy
Guest

Definitely agree with listening, but it’s ok to draw the line somewhere, too. Sometimes it is about growing in the right away.

mamapret
Guest
mamapret

Great advice! I tell my children to listen and it’s a reminder that even as an adult we should listen to those around us, as well.

Czjai Reyes-Ocampo
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Czjai Reyes-Ocampo

I agree! When we listen to what others have to say, we not only learn, but we also grow as a person. 🙂

Sarah Stockley
Guest

I learned so much in my first job from watching and listening to other people. This is really great advice!

Preet
Guest
Preet

I definitely needed this today!!! Thank you for sharing this advice and allowing us to start our day off right. There is so much that can be gained from this practice!

Linsey Barta
Guest

So true! It’s so enlightening hearing others’ perspectives!

Heather
Guest
Heather

This is too true! When I was in the corporate world the senior leadership always claimed they wanted to see and hear reality, but they most certainly didn’t! And no one was volunteering to show them, lol.

Amy
Guest

I wholeheartedly agree with all of this and try to live by a familiar philosophy. We can learn from all kinds of people just as others can learn from us. The most important thing is to truly listen.

I work with low income families and have found that just listening to their perspectives and struggles can be an eye opening for me and allows me to better meet their needs. At the same time, I have learned countless things from them as well. Gratitude, enjoying the little things, being brave and fearless etc. Such a wonderful post topic.

Eddie Bowers
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Eddie Bowers

I learn something new every day from my kids, regardless if it comes from the 17 year old, or the 15 year old. And yes that is from listening to them. Now the 2 year old… well I learn more from watching. But I agree 100% always time to learn regardless of who it is coming from, and how old or young that person is.

Ofai
Guest
Ofai

We often overlook the gems we can get from those below us. For example, kids can teach us a lot if we look closely enough and don’t disregard them. In life we must keep learning or our existence will begin to dwindle in meaning.

Susan Peck/Call To Excellence
Guest

This is such great advice – everyone has some sort of wisdom to share, if we are open to receiving it. And sometimes, even if they express a viewpoint that is counter to my own, it makes me really think through and understand what I believe on a deeper level. There’s nothing to lose by treating others with respect and listening to their stories.

Terrie
Guest

I agree. You can learn from everyone. We are all teachers to one another.

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