When you think you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re asking people the wrong questions.

Everyone you’ll ever meet knows something you don’t. It may not be a hard fact, and it may not be something related to the subject at hand. It may not even be information at all. It might be a social skill, emotional resilience, or an admirable attitude earned over years.

The problem is if you don’t look for what other people can teach you in the periphery of why you got together, you’ll think they can’t teach you anything at all – and that’s never true. Worse, you’ll treat them accordingly. If you approach everyone with the respect you’d show a mentor while waiting for them to drop some valuable knowledge, however, any interaction will flow as smooth as a river, regardless of the occasion.

Yes, maybe John can’t help you fix the code for your plugin, but if you go into the meeting expecting just that and nothing more, how inclined will he be to try hard and help? Maybe John can’t fix the code now, but maybe John is much more likely to become able to fix the code than you are, if only he looks up and learns a few new things. If you afford John the courtesy of assuming he knows something you don’t, code-related or otherwise, there’s a higher chance he’ll make sure of it – even if it means he’ll only help you tomorrow, not today.

“Oh, you know how to set up a tent? I’ve always wanted to learn, but my parents weren’t big campers. Maybe you can teach me sometime.” How would you leave a meeting in which you got such a compliment? Probably thinking something along the lines of, “What a nice person! Let me go and try to help them.” If all they said was, “No no, you can’t help with what I need,” well, then why would you even keep thinking about the problem? That’s right – you wouldn’t.

Stay humble, nice, and curious. When you think you’re the cleverest person in the room, usually, the only one you’ve out-smarted is yourself.