We've all heard the theory of surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than ourselves. It occurred to me that we also need people who are learning at our level. To learn with. Education has been around for centuries for a reason. Students learn well in a shared environment with peers to contribute to the thoughts that they form. We all need people whom we exchange our thoughts and give us new things to consider. People we can bounce our thoughts off of in a comfortable, non-judgmental way. When we speak with those folks, there is a sense of respect for each's experience and beliefs. We consider their way of thinking is a part of who they are, not something we need to change or distort, nor is it something that we should fear.
Growing up with hearing loss, it was difficult to be social. I'd miss the jokes in a group. I was always a moment too late to puzzle them out or felt it was stupid to ask for the punch line after it's given. It still happens in loud environments. I spent some time today with a good friend who also has the same hearing issues and it felt wonderful to identify with someone so closely about my experiences. Because I identified with him so well....I felt as if I could hang out with him, relax and enjoy the conversation, etc.
I also found I was much more comfortable contributing my thoughts, my way of thinking about each subject. It should be normal for friends to feel that comfort level together, but for me it takes a bit longer because I wait for that balance between the two of us to occur, to fall on the same level and communicate in an open, honest but relaxed way.
It *is* important to converse with people smarter than you, but it's just as important to surround yourself with people on the same level of knowledge and/or similar experiences. You can then both learn and teach and find valuable lessons in each.
Photo by yourdon.