Albert Einstein once famously said that “Once you stop learning, you start dying.”
We all have our own opinions, our own way of doing things and our own convictions about how to lead our lives and what is right and wrong. And our differences are what makes us individual; and our individuality is what makes us unique.
As I get older (and hopefully wiser, although age is no guarantee of wisdom!), I realise how important it is not just to make oneself heard, but also to listen to others. I was never very good at listening as a child, and still have to check myself as an adult when I find thoughts and ideas tumbling out of my head in conversation. But if we do take the trouble to listen properly, and hopefully to listen a bit more than we talk, then we can reap two very important benefits for ourselves.
The first is that we can always learn something from others. Even those with whom we may sometimes feel that we fundamentally disagree! There’s so much that we can discover talking to someone else, especially discussing a problem, a theory, a plan, or anything else that requires careful consideration. If we’re truly listening and open to taking on board what the other person is saying, we can get a whole new perspective on something, and also understand the differences between us as people a little better, where they exist. Quite often other people, if they will take the trouble to talk and we to listen to them in return, can open new worlds for us to explore, whether these be related to differences of attitude, belief, ways of tackling problems, offers of shared expertise or assistance and much, much more. They can help us to understand their unique set of circumstances and pressures and, where interests cross, listening properly to others helps us both to heal rifts and prevent division in the first place.
The second is that we can be inspired. Sometimes we can harness that spark of chemistry that happens when two people have shared interests, goals, ideas, methodologies, etc. and put it to use in our own endeavours. It’s a rare thing, but when we find someone truly on our own wavelength, its bit like finding a pot of gold that we can keep dipping into for more inspiration and ideas. A really good discussion with someone who knows where we’re coming from, understands what our aspirations are and cares about them in the same way that we do can leave us feeling energised and ready to take on the world. With the right person to talk to about the things that matter to us, little ideas can reveal themselves as beautiful aspirations, thoughts can be encouraged to blossom into plans, and wishes can start making the journey towards becoming reality; because sometimes all we need is the right kind of support to make things happen.
So drop your guard and keep the dialogue going. Listening is another way of giving, but we often receive just as much in return.