Have you ever started to tell someone about a great podcast you just heard? You enthusiastically say something like, "you have to listen to this, it's so good" but then proceed to tell them all the highlights, and maybe stop yourself part of the way through realizing you are not telling it as well as the podcaster (or probably, the producer) and now you've taken away some of the impetus for your friend (or whomever you are talking to) to actually listen for themselves. Here is some good news, based on the science of learning, not only are you reinforcing the learning for yourself, but you are also creating a richer learning environment for your friend. And, you would do well to tell as many friends as possible about whatever you learned. It's a form of retrieval practice. When I attempt to summarize or retell something I've recently learned (in a book, a class, a podcast, or from an expert) I am giving myself a little informal quiz about what I learned that stuck with me well enough to reiterate to someone else. I am also often elaborating on what I learned by connecting it to a real-life story or application that makes it come alive.
Here's an example: I listened to an episode of Hidden Brain called, "Me, myself and IKEA" a few years ago and it has stuck with me since. It's about the phenomenon called "Implicit Egotism". The short summary is that we prefer things and people who have an association with us. For instance, I love the actor Christian Bale - I have ever since I fell in love with his character Jack in Newsies. When I got married and became a Bale myself my love for him went to a new level, as I feel connected to him in a whole new way. Additionally, this podcast about preferring things that you have a personal connection to came out on my birthday, May 22nd. Do I love it because it came out on my birthday, or is it a convenient way to remember the content of the podcast? Writing it all down here and taking time to reflect back on that old information and the connections I made when I first heard it, and then again every time I retold it, is further elaboration. As the authors of Make It Stick say:
The more you can elaborate on how new learning relates to what you already know, the stronger your grasp of the new learning will be, and the more connections you create to remember it later.
So, it turns out, that my annoying habit of wanting to give an oral summary of all the good content I've learned is actually a good learning strategy.