Here’s a thought experiment, I’d like to present to you.
Consider the following assumptions, one at a time, carefully:
1. People are generally selfish.
2. Conversation is the exchange of information. When we speak, we give information and when we listen, we receive information.
3. Most people prefer to talk (give) than to listen (receive).
I would contend that most people would agree with each of these assumptions individually. However, as a group, we are left with an illogicality. One, or more, of these assumptions, must be false.
Which one? You may conclude differently, but I contend that #2 although true, suffers from the “intellect vs. emotion” discrepancy — our intellect knows something to be true, but our emotion perceives the situation differently. The castle of intellect is surrounded by the mote of emotion.
Do we prefer to talk because our desire to give information is greater than our desire to receive it? I don’t think so.
Let’s swim across the mote together.
Although conversation, in theory, is the exchange of information, in practice, it is often the exchange of perceived external validation. When I speak, I receive validation and I listen, I give validation. The problem with this practice is that the exchange of information is lost. If the exchange of information is lost — why are we talking? Only to receive the external validation of our existing ideas and information? That seems like a waste of time.
Do we value external validation over receiving information and ideas?
If true, this would explain why so many of our conversations of substantive matters are fruitless. Each party coming to the table with their immutable ideas and information, waiting their turn to feed their ego with an external validation meal. When the dialogue is complete, the ego’s appetite is sated but the intellect starves.
There is good news here. There is a secret loophole in this phenomena. Our emotion’s perception that speaking provides external validation is mostly wrong. Who do you hold in higher regard, a good listener or a motor mouth? The external validation that we seek comes from listening more than it does from talking. Plus, the bonus – when we listen, we increase the balance of our “bank of account” of information.
Once we accept this, everyone wins. The ego gets its external validation by becoming a good listener and the intellect is finally fed new ideas and information.
“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.”