Stephen Covey wrote a business best-seller in the 1990’s that is still very relevant today, called ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’. If you haven’t got a copy, shame on you. Get one quickly.
The fifth of the seven habits is, to me, the most interesting, and probably the hardest to adopt as a habit.
It says ‘Listen to Understand, Before Making Yourself Understood”
Let’s face it, most people we talk to have their own agendas and are more interested in what they have to say than in listening to you. Even when you’re talking, they are revving up and getting ready to launch into what they want to say.
If you’ve ever been interrupted, you know what I’m talking about!
Now, imagine talking to someone and they give you their full attention. They nod in the right places and give good eye contact. While you’re talking, they are actively listening to every word. When you finish, they ask a couple of questions to clarify exactly what you mean, then summarise their understanding of your points.
Now, that’s so unusual we would probably think it quite odd. Yet when we think about the conversation afterwards, we feel that we’ve been understood and appreciated by the listener. Our self-esteem and self-worth have grown because we feel that someone likes us and our opinions. They may not have agreed with us, but they understood us.
That’s what happens when we listen to understand. The other person has their self-worth enhanced, and feels good. You are appreciated as a good, active listener. It doesn’t mean that you necessarily agree with their view, but you’re absolutely clear on what their view is and why they hold it. You’re less judgmental and more curious.
Can you imagine the atmosphere in your department if everyone listened to understand the other person? It can only result in more rapport, closer business relationships and a more harmonious working environment. One way you can encourage this is by setting the example yourself. Start by listening intently to just one person today. Give them your time and full attention. Summarise your understanding and then make yourself understood. Try it. It could make all the difference.