Introverted Idea Thievery (Listening)

June 02, 2018

A friend calls me an idea thief. Not that I’m literally stealing ideas, but that I tend to ingest more than I output, especially in real-time situations like conversations. I pull all the information in and try to put it all together in my head before I ever share any output.

Being a relatively typical extrovert, my friend gets really annoyed at me when I just keep not talking during a conversation. My wife gets pretty irritated for the same reason. If we’re having any kind of argument, I stop talking because I’m trying to think it out. Note to introverts: don’t do that, talk to your wife.

But in general, and inline with some old tropes, if you’re talking then you’re not listening, and you’re probably not thinking particularly deeply either.

But thinking and listening are the methods of input for asymptoting towards truth. So extroverts, beware. It’s probably easier to fall into some traps around belief bias.

Anyway, you should engage in idea thievery as much as possible, especially when you’re talking to experts. The utility in talking to an expert is in listening. If you’re talking and the expert isn’t.. you’re not getting very much of their expertise. I see a lot of people fall into this trap, mostly because they want to feel their ideas validated by the expert. It gives them the feeling of plausibility.

One of the chapter titles from Jordan Peterson’s book 12 Rules for Life is “Assume the person you’re listening to might know something you don’t”. One of Peterson’s points is that this is humble. But it’s also pragmatic. It’s the same utility as listening to experts: it’s how you know more than before.

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