It’s important to listen to other people who have different experiences. Who look different from you. Who are younger than you. Who are older than you. Who speak a different language. Who go to a different church or temple. Who don’t go to any church or temple. Who live someplace else. Who have knowledge and skills that you don’t share. Who think differently from you, often because of those other different experiences.
These may seem like obvious platitudes, but most platitudes are grounded in truth, sometimes quite deeply. I think highly of myself. Maybe you do, too. I’m pretty smart, I’m well-read, I can spell really well. I can easily and quickly spot typos in manuscripts. I have other business and management skills, too. Really, I do.
But on a regular basis I am reminded of my shortcomings, sometimes directly (thank you, wife), sometimes indirectly (why didn’t I win that Neal award?), in formal documents like annual performance reviews (thank you, boss) and informally (why did I take that 3 train to Penn Station rather than the PATH to avoid yesterday’s train delays?).
I was reminded of the benefits of being a good listener on a recent vacation (a singing vacation, by the way) to Europe where through reading the local newspapers, watching local TV and talking to some locals I was exposed to a different perspective on the Greek euro crisis. One European I talked to said he thought that the Greek crisis was all about Germany trying to take over Europe economically, having been foiled from doing so militarily in World War II. Thinking that notion was a little batty, I asked another intelligent, well-traveled and well-read European to confirm my skepticism. I was a bit surprised when he responded by saying there were many people in Europe who thought very similarly. Hmm.