How to learn something from every person you meet

Sometimes, the things we never think about are the ones that could take us to the next level.

I think there are two reasons why we never think about some things that are important: Because we don’t have them on the radar or because we don’t consider they are important.

One of those things that we don’t think about (or we don’t give enough importance to) is the influence that a person can exert on a specific moment of our life. Interacting with other people is something that most of us do several times during a day, and that’s why it becomes something normal, just part of the routine.

Often, the problem that something becomes routinary is that we forget the goals and the benefits of why we are doing it.

That’s what happens when we include the fact of meeting and interacting with new people into the category of “routine”. How often do you ask yourself what lesson gave you the last person you met? None of us ask that, or we do it very few times.

You may be thinking that you can’t learn something from everyone you meet, but it’s very likely that you are thinking that because you have never taken the time to analyze in detail what happens after you meet someone.

As human beings, we are constantly sending signals between ourselves while we interact. The way we speak, our body posture, the way we look at the other person…all those things can say a lot about our interlocutor.

Analyzing those signs and those conversations is what we often forget to do.

So, everything I have said so far brings us to a conclusion: We are wasting valuable information when we meet a person, because most of the times we are not aware of the knowledge and lessons (implicitly and explicitly) that this person could teach us.

The only thing that brings us knowledge and valuable information are not books, or projects or schools. Traditional, conventional in-person interactions also do. And we know this, but we don’t take benefit from it.

How to take the most benefit when we meet someone?

It’s very boring and it creates a lot of pressure having to meet someone just for obligation, and this could happen in different contexts:

– When, due to our job, we have meetings with different type of people, and it doesn’t matter if you want or not, you have to be in the meetings.

– When you are at a party or an event, and you have to interact with different kind of people, even if you don’t want to.

Part of the reason why it’s boring meeting some people is because we forget that we could learn from every single interaction we have with someone else.

This doesn’t mean you will have fun with every person you meet, but at least it will give you an additional incentive to be open-minded about those interactions. Even if you hate that person after the first interaction, you will learn from that. Remember that bad experiences are also very good teachers.

With this mentality, we can turn a losing situation into a winning one: For being bored or desperate because you had to interact with someone you don’t like, to be thoughtful and encouraged with that interaction, because, even if the other person is a pain in the ass, you will learn something.

Believe me, it doesn’t matter how bad or boring you think a situation is, if you are willing to open your mind, you can learn from that situation.

One month ago, I met the new commercial director of one of the market research agencies my company works with.

He is a fifty something and is the typical guy who wants to attract attention the minute you start talking with him. I hated that meeting since the first minute, but I kept acting cool, analyzing the guy.

The interaction with that guy taught me a lot of things. Here are some of them:

– When the guy realized I was from Colombia, he said he loves my country and that he lived there for a couple of years. Then, he started talking imitating my Colombian accent. It was depressing.

But I’m glad that happened, he taught me to never try to imitate other accent and force myself to try to be funny, especially if we are in a business meeting.

– The guy kept talking and talking, telling me about his life, his years in Colombia and another thousand irrelevant things. We only talked about business like for fifteen minutes, and we ran out of time without reaching any important conclusion.

But I’m glad that happened. That attitude reminded me the importance of always try to listen at least the double of the time I speak. My interlocutor always has to have priority, and I’m sure I will learn more (and take better decisions) if I let the other person do the talk while I listen carefully.

– He never stopped eating. He ate two slices of cake and drank two cups of coffee in the Starbucks where we were having the meeting.

But I’m glad that happened, he taught me to always remember and have in my mind that I want to reach my fifties in an optimal physical and mental condition, so I need to eat healthier and take good care of my body.

It’s not difficult to take advantage of this situations. Imagine you are in a class. As you know that is very probable that the teacher will teach you something (and you take notes to study later or don’t forget the lesson), it’s the same thing with our daily interactions: Be aware that every person is a teacher, and every conversation can give you valuable lessons.

Just take 10 minutes after every meeting, or after every time you meet someone, and you will realize that everyone is a teacher. It doesn’t matter if it was a good or bad meeting, a good or a bad interaction. Do it as something aspirational, do it thinking about the fact that every person, directly or indirectly, is sending us signals telling us what we should and shouldn’t do to become that person we want to become.