4 Golden Rules for Meaningful Discussions

Don’t overestimate what your opponent really knows

We oftentimes overestimate the knowledge of others while underestimating our own skills knowledge. I don’t write this because I have read a study about it but I write it because I experienced it by myself.

What you have learned within the last year

First of all, I recommend you to think about all the big and small things you have learned last year. Things you have studied by hard. Lessons you have learned because of mistakes you have made. Books you have read. Interesting people you have met. TED talks you have watched. Conferences you have attended. You probably have learned more than you think. This is also true for me. In 2016 I became very interested in behavioral psychology, blockchain technology, and augmented reality. So I read books, listened to audio programs, TED talks, and I read scientific papers about quite a lot of different things. I tremendously improved my CMS and web design skills and I can write qualitative 1500 word texts within less than an hour. I interacted with many interesting people, who again taught me a lot. Now think about everything you have learned during the last 365 days. Is there a skill you gained by reading books or attending conferences?

You take your new Knowledge and Skills for Granted

I realized that the more I engaged with a certain topic the more do I take my newly acquired knowledge for granted. I do this without even realizing it. I realized it for the first time when I was already pretty skilled in web design and content management systems like WordPress. Unconsciously I took it for granted that you can create a website and take it online within less than 1 or 2 hours. As soon as somebody started talking about creating an homepage or a blog my internal mind already said: “easy”. I didn’t put myself into the shoes of my opponent. What I didn’t think about was that I needed many hours until I was able to create good looking web pages. I just commented something like: “Yep, sounds great it’s a work of 3 hours mate.”
The thought of my opponent was probably more like: “Oh my god, I need to employ a programmer who will create my homepage. This will cost me 5000€, life is so hard.”
While this happened around 2 years ago I had a similar experience last year. I read many books and papers about Bitcoin and the blockchain technology. Every now and then I started a discussion with somebody about this technology. 90% of the time I realized very quickly that my opponent doesn’t know what I am talking about at all.

Put yourself in the shoes of your opponent

I learned to always put myself in the shoes of my opponent when talking about any subject. When I want to start a conversation about a specific topic I always ask myself this question:
**Has my opponent the same knowledge about this topic as me?**
1. When the answer is I am happy to start an exciting conversation.
2. When the answer is no there are two possibilities: either he knows less or more than me about this topic.
3. When he knows more than I do about this topic I start asking the question so that I am able to learn as much as possible.
4. When he knows less than I do I will try to avoid any technical language and explain the topic in very basic terms to him.

Explain Everything as if you are talking to a 6-year-old child

As soon as I realize that my opponent isn’t really familiar with a certain topic, I step back and I will try to explain this topic to her in very basic terms. I like to imagine a 6-year-old child in front of me to whom I have to explain this topic with very easy words and the least amount of time. This helps my opponent to understand the basics of a certain topic within a few minutes. Please try to do it as well and you will very soon realized that it is not as easy as you think it is. Train yourself to explain a certain topic in very simple words and the least amount of sentences. This will require you to deal even more with a certain topic. And if you ask me, you are only an expert on a given topic when you can explain it within 2 or 3 sentences to a six-year-old kid. If you cannot do that: Go back and learn and ask questions before you start a conversation or discussion about it.

Ask Questions

There will be moments in your life when the role allocation will be different. There will be times where you are the one who does not have a clue what your opponent is talking about. Instead of nodding you should ask questions. Slow your opponent down by saying: “Hey sorry mate, can you please explain this to me in very simple terms?”. You can also ask him directly: “Hey mate, I am not familiar with this topic. Could you please explain it to me as if I were 6 years old?”.
This will have a great impact on your life. First of all, people love to talk about things they are interested in. They will appreciate it a lot when you ask them to slow down to explain it to you. They will probably start to like you even more. Secondly, think about what kind of great and interesting things you can learn when you simply start asking questions. Don’t count the amount of question marks in your head. Try to eliminate them by asking the right questions. It is very likely that your opponent will compromise the knowledge of the last 5 books he read into 10 highly valuable sentences.

Golden Rules

1. Ask yourself if your opponent has the same level of knowledge about a certain topic as you have.
2. Explain everything as if you were talking to a six-year-old child.
3. Ask questions if you are struggling to follow a conversation.
4. Don’t discuss things you cannot explain to a six-year-old kid within 2 or 3 sentences.

I hope this will help you to improve your communication skills, win new friends, and deepen your knowledge about a variety of topics.
Remember: If you are not always learning, you are falling behind!

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