Many of us listen from our own point of view. We may assume, erroneously, that our point of view, or frame of reference, is where someone else is coming from.
We may ask questions designed to steer others to our point of view.
We may make assessments based on projections of our own past experiences.
“These behaviors are controlling and invasive.” Stephen Covey
How can we learn to really hear?
1. Open our minds and really learn about other people. Observe them. Study them. Pay attention to how they react. Drop our assumptions about what we believe they are thinking or feeling. Instead, study their actions. Their actions will reveal who they are.
For example if someone does not respond to our need immediately, we may assume it’s because they don’t care. That assumption may cause a reaction within us that no one cares as much as we do. So we do the work ourself. This keeps our ‘story’ going that people can’t be relied upon because they don’t care.
What if someone does not respond to our need immediately and it has absolutely nothing to do with us! What if we remind ourselves we are not the center of the universe. What if we consider the possibility that maybe they are just consumed with their own order of priorities. What if instead of assumptions we sought to understand their needs?
It could be as simple as asking them if they need support or if there is anything we could help them with. They may share things we didn’t know because our demands and expectations didn’t create space for this level of understanding.
“You will never be able to truly step inside another person and see the world as they see it until you develop the pure desire, the strength of personal character, and the positive emotional bank account as well as the empathic listening skills to do so.” Stephen Covey.
2. We can learn to be more aware of our own internal reactions. How do we know if we are having a reaction? Simple, anytime we are not at peace! If someone is irritating us, if we feel impatient, if we are anxious, if we are intolerant then all these ‘reactions’ let us know we are not at peace. It means that we are allowing someone or something outside ourselves to have an impact on our emotions.
Seeking to understand, allows us to be influenceable, which is the key to influencing others. As we appreciate people more, they will appreciate you more. It is often those who feel the least appreciated that give very little of their emotional or vulnerable self!
When we learn to deeply understand each other, we open the door to creative solutions and third alternatives. Our differences are no longer stumbling blocks to communication and progress. Instead they become the stepping stones to synergy.
These are just a few benefits to any organization where leadership is committed to understanding. Those who are committed to understanding are able to bridge gaps, act as a liaison between systems, see the needs of two camps and bring them both together for the highest effectiveness of the company.