Will You Listen?
You’ll read elsewhere on this site about how biased I can be in thinking I am correct despite all evidence to the contrary. (Ignoring lifelong residents of Venice about the Acqua Alta!) And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this. How many times have you told your children something you know to be true just to have them completely disregard it? To somehow believe their 12 years of life experience are vastly superior to your 43? How many times have you second-guessed someone with decades more experience than you? I swear, I think we all think we are geniuses. This article is about trying to do a better job of listening. But I don’t mean it in the “make good eye contact” sense of listening, I mean it in the “you don’t know everything” sense of listening. I think because we have so much information available to us, we feel we know just as much or more than anyone else. Why do I need to talk with a doctor when I can just Google my symptoms? Why ask for directions when I can use the GPS on my phone? Why listen to my mother when I can watch a YouTube video? Why consult a lawyer, realtor, CPA, or any other expert?
We still need experts. Experts spend their waking lives studying their area of expertise. They read, they study, they learn, they apply. Any random weirdo (myself included) can put a video on the web. What the hell is wrong with us? We give the same weight to an anonymous review as to the opinion of people who gave birth to us (maybe more). We have sacrificed accuracy and depth for speed, ease and control. And we have an over-inflated sense of our own knowledge and understanding. We trust Google (search results are a can of worms we’re only beginning to open) more than the wisest among us. So what to do?
Call yourself out on it. See below for the story of my stubbornness. I need to listen better and be less confident in my own approach. What about you? When you’re researching something online do you just look at the top search results? Those are often from advertisers with an agenda, not reputable sources. Dot gov and dot edu websites are your best bet.
Look for depth. The internet has little depth. Experts have depth. Many articles online have deep titles, but are just fluff, no substance. Sometimes they’re ads disguised as information. It takes time to go deep, reading books, white papers, interviewing people, getting a doctorate. If you don’t have time for that, consult an expert.
Don’t disregard experience. Experts have real world experience. Sure, you can watch an expert do something on YouTube. But you won’t see the 10,000 practice runs. You will get a false sense of confidence that things are easy.
Don’t be me. My overconfidence because of all the information I can access has snuck up on me. I need to give greater weight to the opinions of experts and less weight to my own. Anybody willing to join me? Or do you know better?