As part of my plan to simplify and eliminate the clutter in my life I decided to go on an info diet a few weeks ago. I dropped dozens of feeds from my reader, dropped almost all internet group memberships, and cancelled almost all internet newsletter subscriptions. By themselves these things made very little change in my day-to-day activities except for vastly reducing my e-mail load, which confirmed that I just didn’t need most of them in the first place.

The second part of the diet is I completely disengaged from the news. I mean completely. I previously just sort of ignored the news but would have the TV on in the background or would read the newspapers delivered to my door each day at the hotel. For some reason I thought I needed to do this to stay current. Well, I don’t. Now I studiously avoid newspapers, talk radio, and the TV with the exception of glancing at frontpage headlines as I walk by news stands (I don’t stop.) Turns out people I know and talk to on a daily basis also read and watch this stuff. And something interesting has happened to our conversations.

Now when they ask, “Did you see so-and-so in the paper/news/airport?” my response is “No, I didn’t. What happened?” They tell me and I get to listen. I actually listen. I’m not busy trying to express my own opinion because I don’t have one. Another nice thing – I can now have small talk, which has always been a problem for me. But now it’s really simple. I can sit down with someone I barely know and ask, “So what’s happening with the elections/industry/stock market/whatever?” And they actually enjoy telling me. Again, I get to listen.

People love it when you listen to them. It’s not like I didn’t know this, but giving myself the opportunity to practice it via my info diet has been really interesting. My ego no longer sits in the shadows going “Speak up! Speak up! You know that!” – competing with my desire to listen. And I don’t feel the least bit stupid because I have no idea where Britney Spears was last night. In fact, I feel better because I don’t know.