The importance of learning from others

Our brains are capable of receiving and analyzing information directly and indirectly. If we want to learn about a subject, we read books, watch instructional videos or attend classes. All these method of learning fall under direct learning where we willfully plan to learn about a subject.

The indirect learning happens when we observe an individual or a group of people doing something and we record their activity. In this method of learning neither, this particular individual or group nor the recipient intend to give or receive information. One effect of this type of learning could be in the form of social conformity. For example, if you enter a room and you see all people in this room standing up, you will do the same even if there are chairs in the room. You may laugh at a joke when everybody in your group laughs even if you did not get the joke. Here is another popular example:

In my opinion, social conformity is not always a negative thing, as many like to think of it. When an individual feels peer pressure to copy a bad behavior just to fit in a group then this indeed a negative thing of social conformity. On the other hand, social conformity may be good when it comes to adapting to a cultural difference. An American visiting North Africa or the Middle East will notice that Arabs do not show the sole of their shoe in front of others. Social conformity in such case is a positive behavior. You do not want to look rude or disrespectful of others’ culture.

In social conformity, we observe, learn and then act. This act could be a good behavior or a bad one.

A woman reading a book at Central Park in New York. While living in the States I learned that Americans like to read

Another type of indirect learning happens when we do not plan to act based on our observations. We observe and learn, but do not act. This behavior may fall under collective learning because it builds our perspective about everything.

Our perspective changes by time due to aging (experience) and to the many different people we encounter in our life. Every person we see teaches us something, even if we did not talk to him or her.

In my twenties, I was very protective and defensive of the things I believed in. And I believe most people in their twenties are like this as well. Maybe this is the reason why most political riots and demonstrations start from university campuses. I am sure there are many reasons not just one why suicide bombers are in their twenties not forties or fifties. But, one main reason is that the brain is not mature enough to doubt its belief system at twenty.

The more people we meet the more we know, but sometimes the less confident we believe in what we already know.

It is fine if you cannot fix a major problem or know which path to take in your life. It is fine to make mistakes because we all make mistakes. You are not omniscient, no human is. By time, we collect knowledge and learn.

Collective learning guides us in our journey in life.

Listening and learning from people of different background than yours will develop your belief system. Because no matter what you think of yourself be assured you will find people who are more intelligent or more pious or more experienced than you. And this is absolutely fine because we are all different.

Learn from others but do not compare yourself to others because your life is different. 


4 thoughts on “The importance of learning from others

  1. Great reminder. That video was funny! One reason I’d probably turn to face the back of the elevator if everyone else was is so that I don’t have to face them. Crowded elevators already put Americans into others’ personal spaces. FACING people in such a small space is getting into their personal spaces even more! Have you ever been in the US, in a crowded elevator and notice how people will stare at the floor or ceiling or straight ahead rather than talk? Not always, but often this happens especially if the elevator is packed. I guess we are trying to “ignore” those who are in our personal spaces.

    But that’s not really what your post was about, was it? Ha! Oops. I enjoyed the topic. What areas do you feel you conformed to while living in the US that maybe you’ve reverted back to The Original Malik since being in Jordan?

    “In my twenties, I was very protective and defensive of the things I believed in.” — Do you feel you’ve softened your stance on some of these things now?

    I find the older I get, and the more I read, the more I talk to others and learn about them, the less smart I feel! Like, THERE IS SOOOO MUCH MORE OUT THERE THAN I’LL EVER KNOW!!


    1. I am like the Americans; I avoid eye contact in elevators 🙂

      — What areas do you feel you conformed to while living in the US that maybe you’ve reverted back to The Original Malik since being in Jordan?

      This is an excellent question. I am trying to think of something but can’t find one at the moment. Maybe because after 12 years conforming to new things becomes a habit. I only drank Turkish coffee before going to the States. Now, I replaced it with American coffee. I don’t like Turkish coffee any more. Thanks God for the Globalization 🙂 We can buy American coffee here in Irbid. I think most of the habits I developed while in America stayed with me. Oh, wait I remember one. Driving! There is no way I can drive here the same way I used to drive in the States. Here driving is all about THIS ROAD IS MINE ONLY! Never expect any driver to give you right of way. You have to earn it. So, I am back to ‘MAD MAX’ way of driving 🙂

      — Do you feel you’ve softened your stance on some of these things now?
      Yes, a lot. The universe is much bigger than my teeny-tiny belief. No human understands or comprehends how the universe works. Planet earth size to the universe is like a tiny grain of sand. So, how relevant am I in this grain of sand?


      Thank you for your lovely comment.


  2. The driving thing. LOL!!! My first boyfriend was from Yemen and he was a pretty good driver but every now and again he’d do something that really made me want to say “Why don’t you pull over and let me drive, please?” but I never did. 😀


    1. In Columbia, MO I hardly heard any horn. When I visited New York the horns brought some memories from back home 😊 Arabs drive like crazy and always in a rush for no reason. I miss driving in America!


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