“Learn more. Know less.”
This is one my favorite pieces of wisdom. It comes from author and journalist Neil Strauss.
At first, it might seem contradictory. If you learn more, don’t you know more?
What this statement is really getting at is an important mindset distinction: We behave differently when we feel we “know” than when we are setting out to learn.
Once you let go of “knowing” and instead embrace learning, you’ll stop being defensive at work and start getting ahead in your career.
Stop Getting Defensive
When you “know” you’re right, you tend to get defensive. Whether someone outright disagrees with you or simply suggests a different strategy, you’ll get your hackles up.
When you’re defensive, you’re more focused on ego than on what will work. If you can turn off the defensive feeling, you’ll be able to focus on productivity instead of personality.
Your ego wants to be right, that’s normal, but don’t let it make you look ridiculous by arguing a point you’re really not sure about.
When you feel yourself getting defensive, pause. Most people get defensive when they don’t have enough information about a situation.
Be a Student at Your Job
The antidote to defensiveness is curiosity. Listen to what someone else is saying. They may have a point, they may not.
But I guarantee that showing curiosity and listening to their point of view is more effective than arguing your point.
Think back to when you were a student: You knew you didn’t know and you were there to learn.
If you put yourself in a student mindset of openness and curiosity, you’ll explore all the options and find better solutions in the workplace.
When you’re stuck in your own point of view, you’re not open to new ideas, you’re not learning. Switch that around. Stay curious. Learn about your team.
Let Go of Being Understood
I’ve struggled with this one at various points in my career. I used to have this desire, this compulsion to want to be understood, to want others to validate my point of view or my story.
What I’ve learned from my time as a corporate manager, as well as from my time as an executive coach, is that being understood isn’t part of having a successful career you love.
Instead of trying to be understood, focus on making sure you’re not being misunderstood. Think about the difference between those two for a minute.
Being understood means people “get” you and value you at a deep level. Is that really what you need and want from your career? It might be a goal in your personal life — you may want your spouse or your friends and family to truly understand you and validate you. But that kind of deep understanding — “getting” you — has nothing to do with being successful in your career.
To avoid being misunderstood, communicate effectively with your team. Provide and give feedback and pay attention to where communication breakdowns occur. This brings the focus back to the practical instead of the emotional side of things.
The next time you find yourself getting defensive, pause and show a little curiosity. You’ll likely find that the tension will go from 60 to 0.
What are some ways you can get out of our own way and be a student at your job, rather than “knowing” your job and stopping at that?
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