Listen to what people choose to talk about. Their particular take or position on a topic is sometimes less telling than their choice of that topic from the available pool of issues they could have brought up.

I first noticed this as a kid with an uncle regularly switched between drinking too much and being really vocal about being in AA. He wasn't consistently for drinking or against it, but either way - alcohol is the topic. We’re all hypocrites in some ways, and we all change our views on things that matter to us as we work and learn on them over time. 

Often you can gain more understanding of a situation by reflecting on what it is being talked about, instead of the particular details of the perspective being offered. 

I noticed this early on working with creative services companies like ad agencies and pr firms. In a pitch to a prospective client the executives of these organizations bring out fancy slide decks and print materials to describe the unique advantages of their offering. If they’re going on and on about their amazing process, it’s quite likely they were recently burned with a process mistake. They’ve been thinking, talking, and working on improving processes and now you’re going to hear how great it is. Maybe it’ll work well for you, maybe not - but it’s more interesting that they’re choosing to talk about process over any number of other topics (past work, your needs, awards, their vision - could be anything!)

Often we use language to express two extreme positions on a topic that we’re worried about, with the hope that voicing the polar positions will help us find our footing on where we really are inbetween. The HR chat that sounds like “I really love working here…. but I hate it when ______” Love? Hate? These are strong words in my book. Either way, it's clear they're thinking about their job. 

This principle is a powerful one as you practice listening more. Start open conversations and let the other person take it to any topic they want. Press a little to see what informs their opinion. It's often just as interesting to consider why they picked this topic as it is to hear their particular take on it. 

From a million things to talk about, why'd they pick that?

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