Take a moment to reflect on the last time you said, “I don’t know”. Chances are slim that it was within recent memory.

We are wired to compare everything to what we already know. And in many ways you already do know a lot. The problem is that you will immediately compare anything new you encounter to what you already know; people, places, events, conversations, anything.

As we compare the new to the old we will shave off the sharp edges of the new thing and add what’s missing so that this new thing eventually fits into that we already know (the old thing).

Then we’ll say, “Oh yeah, I already know that.” Or we’ll say, “That’s not new.”

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” – Anais Nin

We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are. Click To Tweet
What is the impact of having to know on you?
What is it like to spend a lifetime pretending you understand when you don’t?
What is it like to be bored a lot, bored because you’ve seen this before, met someone like this before, been to a similar place, heard similar things, and thought similar thoughts?
What is the impact of turning your taking everything new and making it old?

No child operates like you and I do. Everything is new, even if it’s not.

My 7 year old will play the same song over and over and over again, equally if not more happy with each passing iteration. You and I can have the attention span of a gnat.

So here is the really relevant reason to deal with this fact, that you think you know everything.

That right, you don’t listen. You hear, your ears work, but you don’t actually take in what anyone says. Here’s how I know this, you ask very few if any questions when people speak to you. That’s right, instead you come right back with what you want to say. Or your questions are leading in some way; they are questions aimed at proving your point. They are not really questions.

The cost of this debilitating and all-too-human habit is your lack of understanding, their experience of being unheard, and our half-baked decision-making.

The impact will also show up in the next “employee engagement” survey and you’ll address this lack of engagement in a hundred ways other than listening to them.

Here’s an alternate path. In your next conversation pretend you actually don’t understand their view.
Ask the questions,
“How come?”
“Why does this matter to you?”
Ask anything until you discover, in their answers, that you really know nothing about these people.

If you can discover this, then you have a shot at leadership.