Everybody loves secrets.
Not just any kind of secret. People love juicy secrets. The ones that make you gasp in disbelief, and then run to tell someone else anyway. But we can’t be too quick to dismiss the simplistic, boring truths that go largely unnoticed. They count as secrets too, since most people don’t recognize them.
In this case, the secret to an interesting life isn’t all that complicated. What is it?
Presume you might be wrong about everything.
I’ve found it’s ultimately a waste of time to spend energy defending entrenched positions. That doesn’t mean I don’t have strongly held convictions. The opposite is true. But I’ve discovered that it’s relationally destructive to argue with someone in an effort to change their mind. Long term relationships are more valuable than winning a particular debate. And over time, trusted friends will not only listen to your beliefs, but they’ll actually want to hear them.
Admittedly, entering a conversation presuming I could be wrong isn’t comfortable. At all. My ego would rather confidently share answers than listen to diverse ideas. So, if you’re interested in joining me on this journey toward a more interesting life, here’s some basic strategies:
- Don’t equate disagreement with stupidity. If I admit I’ve done it, would you? We all too often assume that somebody holds a different position because they’re uneducated. Or because they have wrong information. Or because they’re just plain dumb. But if you step back a bit, you’ll realize that this practice is arrogant, rude and easy to spot. Plus – what if you’re the one who’s wrong?
- Be like Socrates. He wasn’t considered wise because he knew a lot of things. Socrates loved to ask questions. Rather than defend ideas, he pursued understand through thoughtful inquiry. This approach has added benefits. When you ask questions, people feel heard and appreciated. That goes a long way toward building respect and trust.
- Actually listen. If you’re like me, listening is a challenge. When you’re talking, I’m probably formulating my next response. That’s why I’m constantly reminding myself that listening means hearing. And hearing leads to understanding. None of those things can be accomplished if you’re drowning out the words of others with your own thoughts.
- Swallow your pride. Contrary to popular belief, wisdom and knowledge are completely different. Knowledge is pretty straight forward. It’s all the stuff you know. But wisdom is counter-intuitive, because the wise deeply understand how much they don’t know. That’s why God said humility is the result of wisdom. That means it would actually be wise to approach a conversation with enough humility to admit that you might be wrong.
- Get Curious. Kids are insatiably curious. But for whatever reason, curiosity gets lost when you become an adult. So what would curiosity look like if we didn’t lose it with age? Expressing genuine interest in someone else’s ideas. Most people fake interest with polite smiles and nods. Meanwhile, internal dialogue says things like “Will this person ever stop talking?” or “Where in the world do they come up with this stuff?” Unless you think you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread, a little curiosity might do you some good. If you’re not careful, you might even learn something.
- Be ‘Likeable’. In radio and television, hosts strive for something called “likeability”. It’s that overall sum of personality qualities that makes someone say, “I like that guy!” Looking for an example? Jimmy Fallon is likeability personified. People love him because he’s fun. He lets others shine. He’s confidently awkward and genuinely humble. He’s not afraid to look foolish, and enjoys being around others. Want an interesting life? Try to increase your likeability. And don’t forget that nobody likes someone who thinks they’re right about everything.
The older I get, the less I know. Sounds strange, but it’s true. Maturity brings the humbling realization that life is more complicated than originally thought. As a result, debates have lost their luster. So I’m journeying toward what seems to be a more interesting life. It starts with presuming I might be wrong, and you might be right. Care to join me?