Become an Intellectual Explorer

Master the Art of Conversation

 IHS President Dr. Emily Chamlee-Wright discusses how to approach conversations as learning opportunities in the latest video from our collaboration with Big Think.

Do you ever have a conversation that leaves you feeling smarter, challenged, and curious to learn more? Great conversations like this can lead us to a deeper understanding of someone’s point of view and can help us grow intellectually.

In order to have these challenging discussions, Chamlee-Wright suggests approaching your conversation partner with humility and sympathetic listening.

“We must enter into any conversation with a deep sense of humility, because I need you to help me fill in my knowledge gaps.”

Being humble in a conversation means understanding everyone has special but limited knowledge. Knowing that allows us to work with others to share our collective knowledge and build more mutual understanding. By understating what we know and don’t know, we can work towards intellectual growth.

“That’s the cool thing about conversation…we look at the same world from different vantage points, and that means that we each have something to offer.”

While critical thinking is “the cornerstone of what it means to have a liberal education,” Chamlee-Wright says that sympathetic listening— the ability to hear and understand what the other person is saying —is just as important.

Sympathetic listening doesn’t mean you have to agree wholeheartedly with someone. Instead, you make a commitment to listen to your conversation partner’s perspective by assuming they are also coming from a place of good faith and logic. If you set aside your desire to hunt for faults in their logic, and instead listen for their reasons why they came to a different conclusion, you open yourself to gaining new knowledge.

So instead of coming to a conversation ready to bowl your opponent over, approach discussing any conversation topic humbly and with a willingness to listen. Doing so will expand your intellectual horizons and leave you hungry for further challenge and exploration.

This video is part of an extended series about civil discourse. To view additional videos from the series, visit the Institute for Humane Studies blog.

See more posts: Big ThinkIdeasInterviewVideo 

You Might Also Like