“I promise, I’m not talking down to you”

It is weird to think that I have to clarify, but I get it and it makes sense.

As someone who is curious about others I have a habit of asking friends, associates and even people I just met if they like to read books.

Never realizing though, that this type of question could come off as condescending or imply that I was “better than you”, just be cause I do enjoy reading.

It wasn’t until recently that it even occurred to me that a question like that could be perceived as threatening.

I really understood this when I asked a fellow entrepreneur if she liked to read and she responded, almost offended, saying, “I don’t have time”.

As the conversation continued I had mentioned that some of most successful people in the world have been known to be avid readers, like Bill Gates, who claims to read about 50 books per year.

She then explained that they didn’t become successful just by reading.

I couldn’t agree more! There are many factors of success, including each individual’s definition of success.

After that experience I started to reflect on other conversations I’ve had with people about reading.

“Do you like to read?” I’d ask.

When’s speaking with someone who didn’t like to read, almost always, the response was “no but I really should start reading more”.

This would have me asking myself, “If you don’t like reading, why should you do more of it? This isn’t a test, it is not a requirement that you like to read”.

It was then I realized I had been asking the wrong question.

That question, more often than not, was being received as me challenging them, causing them to become defensive or feel inadequate. Most likely because we have all been taught and conditioned that in order to be smart or successful, like Bill Gates, we need to read books.

Can it help? Sure! But it is not the only ingredient to success.

In reality, I am asking if they like to read so that I can recommend something that I have read and liked. Maybe they can enjoy it too? If they don’t like to read, why would I recommend they read a certain book or article?

It is no different than other topics such as sports. If I ask you if you like football and you say “no”, I won’t be starting a conversation about the Seahawks off-season moves. And likely when you tell me you don’t like football you’re not going to feel the need to add that you should be watching more of it.

The question “do you like to read” isn’t meant to be condescending or imply that you need to read more. It is simply to qualify the upcoming conversation.

The fact is, I use the term “read books” pretty loosely and quite honestly I think people read a lot more than they think. Just because it is not in paperback form doesn’t mean you’re not reading. Give yourself some credit.

With all of the options available to us today between audiobooks, podcasts, TED Talks, Netflix documentaries and social media I believe we are consuming more information than ever.

After taking this into consideration I was able to understand what it was like to be on the receiving end of that question.

So…

Instead of asking “do you like to read?” Maybe a better question would be…

“Do you like to learn?”

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