In my charitable work, I spend a lot of time with young adults. One thing I do quite intentionally is challenge them.

I challenge their thinking. I challenge what they think the know. I challenge what they’ve heard. I make them justify what they perceive and what they say.

When you do this, either one of two good things can come from it: They either realize their perspective has some holes in it, and I give them something new to consider, or they make a good case for their perception, and they walk away with an affirmation that they must be on the right track.

Either way, they’re thinking. And that’s the goal. It’s the antidote to indoctrination.

Recently, over the course of the conversation, I got into a semi-heated discussion in which the teen I was speaking with started getting animated and was quite sure she was right. She started intimating I was stupid and didn’t know what I was talking about (which is certainly not the first time one has asserted that).

I responded, “Please don’t confuse the fact that you may know something I don’t with the fact that I know more than you do.”

Unsurprisingly, her first reaction was to think I offended her. But if you think about it, it’s entirely true.

With 30 years of life experience on her, I technically, and perhaps by definition (depending on what you’re defining) know more than she does. I almost always will (until I start hitting cognitive decline and she peaks).

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t things she knows that I don’t. In fact, I’m confident there are all sorts of things she knows that I don’t.

Point being, just because she may have unearthed something she knows that I don’t, that doesn’t mean she should underestimate me or forget that while I didn’t know that, there’s still a wealth of life experience I have that she doesn’t.

I’m hopeful articulating this may be helpful for you in some conversations you may have with others of varying life experience and perspective.