All too often, we like to hear ourselves speak and forget that the other person in the conversation might have something meaningful to say. Jordan Peterson tells us that when we have conversations, we should always assume that the other person knows something we don’t, and this is excellent advice.
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Emma: Hi, Brittany.
Brittany: Hey, Emma.
Emma: So we talk a lot on this podcast about Jordan Peterson and his musings on life and self-improvement and all of that good stuff. And I thought that it would be fun today to talk about one of his 12 Rules for Life, which if you’re not familiar, that’s the title of his book, sort of pulls together a bunch of wisdom and advice that he’s given over the years and things that he’s learned as a clinical psychologist. So rule number nine for him is to assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t. So that is an interesting concept and I think when you break it down, basically what this is telling you to do is go into every conversation believing that you have something to learn from the other person. So let the other person talk. Don’t just spend your time waiting to respond or thinking about what you’re gonna say when they stop talking, but actually listen to them. And I think this is something that can have a really powerful effect in our relationships. Cause active listening and really taking the time to listen to others isn’t just good because you could learn something from them, but it’s actually, in my opinion, a form of respect for them as well. Respect for their intelligence and who they are as a person. So, that’s kind of the overview on this. Brittany, do you have any initial thoughts or anything? Cuz I know you’re a huge Jordan Peters.
Brittany: Yes. So, this is something I wish I would’ve learned much sooner. So there was a time when I had just become political, actually, where I thought I knew everything, anybody who didn’t think what I thought clearly, didn’t know anything, and it wasn’t even worth my time to talk to them or listen to them. And that’s something I really regret for a few reasons. One, it was very arrogant of me, and arrogant is when you think you’re better than everyone in one way or another. And I definitely thought I was intellectually superior, even though I really hadn’t earned that. Right? I just assumed that because my beliefs were correct and I do believe they were correct, that therefore I knew more. But you know, what’s interesting to me, and this really threw me for a loop, obviously, I don’t think you know Emma or I think communism is great by any means, but I assumed that all the people I knew in college who were communists or Marxists were stupid. Now, I don’t wanna say they knew more than me and that like they had wiser opinions of the economy, but these people still read books. They had good points. They had, they read a lot. Like they weren’t stupid people. They were just not, they were just not thinking correctly or logically when it came. They were thinking, you know, with their emotions instead of logic when they were thinking about politics or economics. But it would’ve been a really interesting debate to kind of keep me on my toes if I had respected them enough to say, you know what, let’s have a really thoughtful debate cuz you do actually have a lot of knowledge on this topic. Instead, I just dismissed them and was like, all right, you guys are wrong. Therefore, you know, I don’t wanna waste my time. But when you debate people who think differently than you, I think it strengthens your own. So I think even if we don’t agree with what some, the knowledge someone might have, it is still knowledge.
Emma: Yeah. Absolutely I think that’s such a good example to pull in. I definitely have fallen into the same trap. I think the political world is like that where you sort of become entrenched in like what you believe and you start to kind of think, well, anyone who doesn’t agree with me must just be dumb or stupid or whatever. And it’s not a charitable way to think about other human beings for one. But it’s also like, you said, Brittany, you’re missing out on opportunities to engage with other people. And even if you never find any common ground with a communist, maybe they haven’t actually taken the time to think through their, you know, their beliefs. And you might be right, like maybe they haven’t done their research, but you can always learn stuff by having genuine conversations with other people and treating them with dignity. And I think another thing too is that you know, there are so many people out there who just kind of like the sound of their own voice. Yes. And they just wanna sort of talk and feel important. And, you know, everyone I think falls into that sometimes. I’m guilty of this, Brittany.
Brittany: Oh yes. Definitely yes.
Emma: I mean, we literally have a podcast.
Brittany: Yes, I was gonna say, yeah, we do this.
Emma: We’re a little bit hypocritical here, but it’s really important that when you are connecting with someone and having a conversation with them, you actually take the time to really listen to what they’re saying. Like I said before, it’s a form of respect, but it also, you never know what you’re gonna be able to learn from someone. And I think that’s why Jordan Peterson frames the rule this way. And, you know, I don’t totally know everything about him, but I would guess that maybe the reason why he says, you know, assume the person that you’re listening to might know something that you don’t, rather than just saying, well be nice to people and be a good listener is because it helps sort of frame in your mind. You’re like, you’re waiting, you’re listening for, for new information. And when you’re actually like eager to learn something from someone, you’re gonna be a better listener than if you’re thinking, am I looking into their eyes? Yeah. Am I nodding my head? You know, it’s easy to kind of get like lost in your own thoughts, even just trying to be a good listener. It happens to me sometimes. I get easily distracted. And I think listening to other people can teach you some really valuable stuff about improving your own life. You can hear about other people’s experiences and mistakes. You can learn from, you know, things that others have done. You know, maybe you could pick up some great tips on something that you’re interested in or you could find a common interest that you didn’t even know that you had. But there’s a real art to listening well to others. And I think it’s not something that always comes naturally to us. So, Brittany, do you have any like, tips to share on how you listen to others and pay real close attention to what they’re actually saying?
Brittany: Yeah, and I’m not perfect at this. Living presently is a very important thing. Not just for listening, but for almost every aspect of your life. Cause we’re always thinking of the next thing, right? Like, even when I go running, I think of like, oh, I can’t wait till I’m on the next mile. And I’m like, okay, but you’re forgetting that you’re not on the next mile. You’re in this mile. And I think, you know, like enjoy this mile you’re on. And I think when we’re like not listening to people, we’re waiting for what we’re gonna say next. We’re not actually responding, we’re just talking and you know, conversations are give and take. You respond to something someone’s taking. I do this all the time where I’m like so excited for it to be my turn to talk again. That I’m like already planning the words and how I’m gonna say it. Then I’m like, oh, this person’s still talking. And I managed to zone out for the last like three minutes. Totally. So, practicing, mindfulness or being present and you know, I used to do that. I don’t meditate as much as I used to anymore. So I can’t say that I still meditate, but that’s how I really learned to do that. Cuz you just kind of sit in the quiet for anywhere from three to 20 minutes. Some people do it for hours at a time and you learn to keep your mind in the present and not wander off to what you have to do next. So I think that’s a really good thing. You can even practice that. So I do a little exercise where like if I’m brushing my teeth, instead of thinking like, all right, next I have to get dressed, I sit there and I’m like, all right, I’m brushing my teeth right now. Like this is what I’m doing. And it sounds silly, but that helps me kinda stay in the present. Or if I’m washing my hands, I just think about what I’m doing In that instance, I just think about the actual Yeah. Washing of the hands because that will actually train you to say like, okay, I don’t need to be jumping all over the place and that will help you listen to people. Cuz I do think, I think you’re right, like I think the big lesson Peterson is trying to teach us here is that we don’t listen. And so it’s hard for us to have these conversations that are really meaningful because we’re just each waiting to talk. So yeah. So that’s my advice. I don’t know if you have anything to add.
Emma: Totally. I think, yeah, like you said, mindfulness and practicing mindfulness, it’s sort of like a muscle. That’s why so many people meditate is because, you know, I’ve done a bit of meditation before, but I’ve also read a lot and listened a lot from other people who are really into meditation. And I think Connor actually does meditate as well now that I think of it. But basically, the reason why people say it’s so powerful in such a good practice is because it’s training that it’s almost like a muscle in your brain where it’s like the focus muscle where you can kind of quiet your mind and you know, dim down all your distractions and do what you need to do. So if you practice that by meditating, you can kind of take that into your daily life and say there’s something that’s really distracting you or something that’s, you know, keeps popping up and it’s giving you a hard time or it’s a barrier to what you’re trying to do. If you practice that mindfulness, it will actually give you the ability to quiet down those distractions. So I think, like you said, Brittany, practicing mindfulness in your daily life and whether it’s, you know, eating a meal, being present with the meal and not like watching TV or scrolling your phone or whatever. That’s something I find myself doing sometimes and it’s, you know.
Brittany: Which is funny cause I was literally, just looking at my phone cuz somebody told me. I’m like, wait, I heard her tell me to not do that, so I’m gonna stop.
Emma: That’s so funny. It’s so hard not to. And like that’s the other thing is a lot of technology is literally designed to distract us because they want us, you know, using our phones as long as possible every day and giving our attention, which, you know, that’s fine. That’s their motive, it’s their technology. But at the same time, like we should be wise about that and understand that, you know, that mindfulness is something that can really help us. So I think this rule is interesting because it’s not only talking about your personal habits, but it’s also talking about how you view other people and the way that you view o other people. And something that I have really tried to enact in my own life is treating other people with the dignity that I would wanna be treated with. And I think a really big part of that is, you know, I wanna feel like people are listening to me and maybe this is a selfish way of putting it. Maybe I’m exposing myself as selfish.
Brittany: No, I like Elisha. That’s a good point.
Emma: But, It’s kind of like, you know, people say there’s the golden rule and there’s the platinum rule is treat others how you wanna be treated. Or no, that’s the golden rule. The platinum rule is to treat others how they wanna be treated. Anyway. I get confused with all these new like rules and maxims coming out, but I like treating other people the way that I would like to be treated and everyone wants to be listened to. That’s like one of our most basic human desires is to be understood and heard and feel like the opinions that we have are important. So my recommendation to everyone would be, you know, even in these crazy times where it does seem like we have these battle lines drawn where we have enemies and we have friends and it’s like, you’re my friend or you’re my foe and you know, how do you feel about this issue if you don’t agree with me, we can’t be friends. You don’t have to be friends with everyone you disagree with. But I think it’s very important to view them as fellow human beings and treat them with the dignity that should go with that. So unless you have any other last thoughts, Brittany?
Brittany: No, that’s it. I’ll wrap it up here.
Emma: Awesome. Okay, well thank you guys for listening and joining us. We appreciate it. And we’ll talk to you all again soon.
Brittany: Talk to you soon.