Learning with ChatGPT: A Brief Guide

Welcome to a brief exploration of how ChatGPT can serve as a valuable learning companion. If you’re unfamiliar, ChatGPT is a conversational AI developed by OpenAI, designed to assist with a wide array of tasks. While it’s not a substitute for in-depth study or professional guidance, it offers a unique avenue for interactive learning. The aim of this post is straightforward: to guide you through the process of using ChatGPT as a tool for studying new ideas effectively. Whether you’re looking to understand complex theories or simply want to explore a new topic, this guide will offer some practical steps to enhance your learning journey.

Why Use ChatGPT for Learning?

You might be wondering, with the plethora of educational resources available, why turn to a conversational AI like ChatGPT for learning? The answer lies in its unique advantages:

  1. Accessibility: ChatGPT is available around the clock, offering you the flexibility to learn at your own pace and on your own schedule.
  2. Personalized Guidance: Unlike static resources, ChatGPT can tailor its responses to your specific questions, helping you navigate through the nuances of a topic.
  3. Interactive Engagement: The conversational format encourages active participation, making the learning process more dynamic and less monotonous.
  4. Quick Exploration: Whether you’re looking for a summary of a complex theory or need help brainstorming ideas, ChatGPT can assist in a timely manner, allowing you to cover more ground in less time.

While ChatGPT isn’t a replacement for formal education or expert advice, it serves as a complementary tool that can enrich your learning experience in a convenient and interactive way.

Asking the Right Questions

The usefulness of learning with ChatGPT can often be influenced by the questions you pose. I’ve found that the specificity and framing of my queries have made a noticeable difference in the quality of the responses.

For example, instead of asking a general question like, “Tell me about emotional validation,” I opted for a more targeted approach:

“Please explain the main ideas of the book ‘I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships’ by Michael S. Sorensen.”

This yielded a concise summary based on a reputable source, giving me a solid foundation on the topic.

Similarly, when I wanted to delve deeper, I asked,

“Can you tell me how these ideas compare to the Nonviolent Communication framework?”

This specific question led to a nuanced discussion that enriched my understanding of both emotional validation and Nonviolent Communication.

Here are some tips that may help you in formulating effective questions:

  • Be Specific: A more focused question often yields a more focused answer. For instance, asking for a summary of a specific book can provide a well-structured response.
  • Ask for Comparisons: If you’re familiar with a related concept, asking for a comparison can offer new insights. For example, comparing emotional validation to Nonviolent Communication helped me see the nuances of each.
  • Request Examples: Asking for real-world examples can make abstract ideas more tangible.

The way you phrase your questions can influence the quality of the information you receive, so it may be beneficial to think through your queries carefully.

Deepening Understanding Through Examples

While theoretical knowledge provides a solid foundation, examples often serve as the bridge between theory and practical application. In my experience with ChatGPT, asking for examples has been a particularly effective way to deepen my understanding of complex ideas.

For example, when I wanted to understand how to apply emotional validation in my personal life, I asked,

“Imagine situations where I can use it in conversations with my girlfriend. Present lines I could say, which sound casual, but actually wrong, and lines that do validate my girlfriend’s emotions well as described in the book.”

ChatGPT provided both types of lines, helping me differentiate between what works and what doesn’t in real-world scenarios.

Here are some suggestions that may assist you in using examples for deeper understanding:

  • Request Context: Asking for examples within a specific context, like I did with conversations with my girlfriend, can make the concept more relatable.
  • Compare and Contrast: Requesting both correct and incorrect examples, as I did, can clarify what to do—and what not to do.
  • Ask for Action Steps: Examples that come with actionable steps can serve as a practical guide for applying the concept.

Incorporating examples into your learning process can offer a more nuanced understanding, making it easier to apply the knowledge in real-life situations.

Seeking Balanced Perspectives Through Criticisms

While it’s valuable to understand the merits of a concept, it’s equally important to be aware of its limitations or criticisms. This balanced approach can provide a more rounded understanding and prepare you for thoughtful discussions or applications.

In my own experience, I asked ChatGPT,

“Could you provide some valid and research-based criticisms of the concept of emotional validation?”

The response included various points that helped me see the concept in a more nuanced light, such as the potential for reinforcing negative behaviors or the risk of becoming an emotional crutch for someone.

Here are some tips that may help you in seeking balanced perspectives:

  • Ask for Criticisms: Explicitly request criticisms or limitations of the concept you’re studying.
  • Request Sources: If possible, ask for research-based or expert-backed criticisms to ensure the information is credible.
  • Consider the Context: Understanding the limitations of a concept can help you apply it more judiciously in real-life situations.

By actively seeking criticisms or limitations, you can gain a more balanced and comprehensive understanding of the topic at hand.

Visualizing Concepts with Mermaid Diagrams

Sometimes, a visual representation can make complex ideas easier to grasp. ChatGPT can assist you in summarizing books or explaining key concepts of a framework, and present those summaries in a Mermaid diagram format. These diagrams can then be edited using specialized online tools like Diagrams.net.

For example, I asked ChatGPT to “Please summarize this book ‘Refuse to Choose!: Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams’ for me. Give me key takeaways as for the entrepreneur. Present it in a table and/or mermaid diagram.” The resulting Mermaid diagram code provided a concise and organized visual summary of the book’s key points.

mermaid diagram code generated by ChatGPT
mermaid diagram code generated by ChatGPT

I published the resulting diagram in my blog: “Not just book summaries: How I use ChatGPT to ask personal questions and receive coaching advice”.

Here’s how it looks after some styling in the draw.io app:

Here are some tips that may help you in visualizing concepts:

  • Request Summaries: Ask ChatGPT to summarize a book or key framework that you’re interested in.
  • Specify Format: Make it clear that you’d like the information in a Mermaid diagram format.
  • Edit and Customize: Use online tools like Diagrams.net to further edit and customize the diagram to suit your needs.

Using Mermaid diagrams can be a powerful way to visualize and better understand complex ideas or frameworks.

Interactive Learning: Spaced Repetition Cards

Spaced Repetition appears to be an effective method for memorizing new material, as suggested by a study titled “Distributed practice in verbal recall tasks: A review and quantitative synthesis”. One way to implement this technique is through Spaced Repetition Cards, and ChatGPT can assist in creating them.

I asked ChatGPT to

“come up with Spaced Repetition Cards for me to remember key ideas and usage examples of emotional validation.”

The cards that were generated included both theoretical aspects and practical examples, along with action steps for applying the concept.

Here are some suggestions that may help you utilize Spaced Repetition Cards effectively:

  • Request Summaries: Ask for concise summaries of key points to include on the front of the card.
  • Include Examples: Use real-world examples on the back of the card to make the information more tangible.
  • Add Action Steps: Incorporate actionable steps to help you apply the concept in your daily life.

I use Mochi Cards as my Spaced Repetition software.

screenshot of my emotion validation card deck in Mochi.cards software
Cards created with the help of ChatGPT

Creating Spaced Repetition Cards with ChatGPT can be a practical way to reinforce learning and encourage application of new knowledge.

Applying Knowledge in Real-world Scenarios

The real value of learning often becomes evident when you apply it in real-world scenarios. ChatGPT can provide actionable steps to help you put your newfound knowledge into practice.

For instance, when I created Spaced Repetition Cards for emotional validation, they included action steps like “Practice active listening today. When someone talks to you, give them your full attention and resist the urge to formulate your response while they’re still speaking.” Another action step was, “The next time you find yourself in a disagreement or sensitive conversation, apply the Four-Step Validation Method.”

Here are some tips that may help you in applying your knowledge:

  • Request Action Steps: When learning a new concept, ask for actionable steps. For example, you could ask, “What are some practical ways to apply this concept in daily life?”
  • Seek Context: Ask how the concept can be applied in different scenarios to gain a broader understanding. For instance, “How would this concept work in a professional setting versus a personal relationship?”
  • Follow Up: After you’ve tried applying the knowledge, consider revisiting the conversation with ChatGPT to refine your understanding or troubleshoot any challenges you’ve encountered.

Incorporating action steps into your learning process can make the information more immediately useful and relevant.

Ask for Additional Resources

While ChatGPT can provide a wealth of information and practical advice, it’s often beneficial to supplement this with additional resources for a more comprehensive understanding. ChatGPT can recommend books, articles, or other materials that are relevant to the topic you’re exploring.

For instance, after discussing emotional validation and Nonviolent Communication, I was recommended further reading to deepen my understanding. These recommendations can serve as a starting point for more in-depth study or research.

Here are some tips that may help you in seeking additional resources:

  • Ask for Recommendations: After discussing a topic, you can ask ChatGPT for further reading or resources. For example, “What books would you recommend for learning more about this?”
  • Specify Interests: Make your interests or objectives clear to get more targeted recommendations. For instance, “I’m particularly interested in applying this in a business context. Do you have any resources for that?”
  • Cross-Reference: It’s always a good idea to cross-reference any recommendations to ensure they align with your learning goals and are from credible sources.

Supplementing your learning with additional resources can provide a more rounded and in-depth understanding of the subject matter.


Learning is a multifaceted journey, and the tools we choose can significantly impact the effectiveness of that journey. ChatGPT offers a unique blend of accessibility, personalization, and interactivity that can serve as a valuable supplement to traditional learning methods. From asking targeted questions and seeking balanced perspectives to visualizing complex ideas and applying them in real-world scenarios, this conversational AI can be a useful tool in your learning arsenal.

While ChatGPT is not a replacement for formal education or expert advice, it can provide a convenient and interactive way to explore new topics, reinforce existing knowledge, and even challenge your understanding through criticisms and additional resources.

As you continue your learning journey, consider incorporating some of the tips and strategies discussed in this guide. They may help you make the most of this versatile tool, turning your interactions with ChatGPT into productive and educational experiences.

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