Two Things You can Learn from Absolutely Anybody
In my last three years of traveling I have spent a majority of my time in the Far East, namely Taiwan and Japan. Before arriving I suspected I would be meeting people with different ideas, values, and beliefs. I was also certain the experience would have a profound effect on the person I would become. What I began to realize early in my travels was that it did not matter that I was on the other side of the planet or even in another country at all. Every person that I met taught me important things about myself through being with them.
You don’t need to go abroad to meet people. Incase you were previously unaware, people are everywhere. Going abroad only helps you meet a wider variety of people. Since leaving the United States I have met expats, backpackers, many people I’ve struggled to communicate with, businesswomen starting companies in foreign countries, and plenty of people who seem to come to conclusions about me before I speak a word to them (some good, some bad), and I’ve been able to learn something from all these people.
No matter who you meet I guarantee there are two things you can learn from them. It doesn’t matter how you feel about them as a person and it doesn’t matter if the two of you get along. This has changed the way I look at people and helped me create more rewarding relationships. Best of all, it’s pretty simple.
- You learn about the person you would like to be through the qualities you appreciate in the other person.
- You learn about the person you would not like to be through the qualities you do not appreciate.
This may seem obvious and it may seem logical to group these into one but it is important to recognize each of these things separately. If you meet someone and you see a lot to admire about him or her, it might be difficult to spot something negative. Likewise, if you meet someone you don’t get along with, it can be challenging and even painful to try to find something to appreciate about them. But, if you spend enough time with people and make a genuine effort, I suspect you’ll find something. Nobody is infallible and nobody is without merits.
I think it would be best to explain how this can work with someone whose company I did not enjoy. When I first arrived in Taiwan for a job teaching English, I spent some time with another one of the teachers who had recently arrived, let’s call him Phillip Archibald Von Wolfswinkle. Phil and I went to a popular mountain nearby for a day trip. It was a long tough hike, and Phil did not shut his mouth the entire way. I can appreciate a good conversation, but the thing he spoke about most was why he doesn’t like Facebook. I could understand his stance, but found no value in carrying a discussion about it. By the end of the day I was more tempted to send him back down the mountain with a frozen boot and a kick in the arse.
I didn’t love spending time with Phil, but he taught me a lot about myself. The qualities that irritated me are not a reason to hate him; they were only a display of things I do not appreciate. We would have gotten along much better if more of the things he said had some immediate or overlying value. He reminded me of a quote I find a lot of value in: It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. Thus, he helped reinforce an important lesson about holding my tongue unless I have something of value to say. I haven’t always followed this rule to perfection, but I’ve done much better with it since meeting Phil.
I would have been content not speaking to him again but we did work together, and he was not a bad person. As it turned out, I still had more to learn from him. One thing I noticed was while I was getting more and more classes, Phil was not. Apparently, he had not received great reviews from people he had worked with and the school was not giving him new classes. In a job where we were paid hourly, that can be a big problem.
Phil was not the only person being treated this way. I’d heard a few complaints from different people about the same thing, but Phil never complained. He asked me if I was getting classes and what I was doing to be effective in the classroom. He spoke to some of the teachers with more seniority about what he could do better and even requested to do some observations with other teachers in their classes. Phil did not make himself a victim like some of the other teachers did. He did everything he could to put himself in a situation to succeed and I had a lot of respect for the way he handled himself.
I could talk about many things I learned through my experiences with Phillip Archibald Von Wolfswinkle, but it all comes down to the same two things. He helped me learn about the person I would like to be and the person I would not. To Phil, if you are reading this, thank you for the lessons you’ve taught me. You’ve helped me become a better version of myself and I wish the best for you in the future. But, do not expect me to go on a hike with you ever again.
What do you think? Is this a valuable technique? Is there anybody from your life that you could apply this to? What have you learned from people in a similar way? Leave a reply and let us know.