It’s Better to Understand than to Be Understood

By Stephen Garber

We have a secret sauce that allows us to be better leaders, managers and business people: The power of listening with an open mind – and indeed a willing heart – is at the center of all successful relationships, at home and at work.

When we fail to listen, we are almost certain to miss opportunities to build meaningful bonds, relationships and business performance. In order to respond in a way that develops trust and understanding, we first need to listen – fully.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intentto reply.” – Stephen R. Covey

Many of us think we can listen without really having to try. Perhaps we do. Very often, though, we are merely hearing (picking up sound through our ears). And most of us fall into the trap of listening to what we want to hear.

Power listening is a different activity altogether. It requires focus, concentration, effort and emotional awareness of ourselves and of the speaker. We’re not talking about social listening (the back and forth of conversation that can help build social rapport, but not a very deep understanding), we’re talking about listening deeply, a listening that is essential for interpersonal and business success.

This kind of listening is challenging. It asks us to participate in a conversation even while remaining silent. It requires us to truly engage with someone else, putting aside our own concerns or agenda and giving them our total focus – listening with body, mind and heart.

Most of us aren’t taught to function in this way. In a business context, we may focus first on our own functional agenda, our own interests and our own point of view. In relationships, we often slip into being driven by what we emotionally want and need, sometimes forgetting to really listen to what our partner is telling us – even when we think we are.

The good news is that deep and powerful listening can be learned. We can learn how to pause, focus, turn up our ears, our hearts, our “felt-sense” of what is being conveyed. When we do, magic can happen.

Often, we as coaches hear the question, “How’d you know that?” The answer is invariably that you told us – in words, in gestures, in that something from within that is observable and alive when we allow ourselves to truly receive.

And when we power listen at work, we learn what is going on in the hearts and minds of our colleagues, teams and clients. We can make better decisions, gain greater buy-in and commitment, and help our individuals and teams perform at ever higher levels.

Power listening is simple. It is not always easy. And, it can’t be faked.

If we don’t believe in the value of listening, people will see through us, sensing our impatience, frustration and insincerity. If we recognize and value the incredible benefits to be gained from a deeper level of listening, we give ourselves a mighty tool to build our relationships and deliver results.

Power listening brings relationships that are deeply enriched, a closeness that is the essential quality of life. So, listen closely, you’ll be amazed at what you learn.

Steve Garber is director of Third Level Ltd. Contact him at 561.752.5505 or sgarber@thirdlevel.com.

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Drew Limsky

Drew Limsky



Drew Limsky joined Lifestyle Media Group in August 2020 as Editor-in-Chief of South Florida Business & Wealth. His first issue of SFBW, October 2020, heralded a reimagined structure, with new content categories and a slew of fresh visual themes. “As sort of a cross between Forbes and Robb Report, with a dash of GQ and Vogue,” Limsky says, “SFBW reflects South Florida’s increasingly sophisticated and dynamic business and cultural landscape.”

Limsky, an avid traveler, swimmer and film buff who holds a law degree and Ph.D. from New York University, likes to say, “I’m a doctor, but I can’t operate—except on your brand.” He wrote his dissertation on the nonfiction work of Joan Didion. Prior to that, Limsky received his B.A. in English, summa cum laude, from Emory University and earned his M.A. in literature at American University in connection with a Masters Scholar Award fellowship.

Limsky came to SFBW at the apex of a storied career in journalism and publishing that includes six previous lead editorial roles, including for some of the world’s best-known brands. He served as global editor-in-chief of Lexus magazine, founding editor-in-chief of custom lifestyle magazines for Cadillac and Holland America Line, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Interiors South Florida. He also was the executive editor for B2B magazines for Acura and Honda Financial Services, and he served as travel editor for Conde Nast. Magazines under Limsky’s editorship have garnered more than 75 industry awards.

He has also written for many of the country’s top newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, USA Today, Worth, Robb Report, Afar, Time Out New York, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Journal, Ritz-Carlton, Elite Traveler, Florida Design, Metropolis and Architectural Digest Mexico. His other clients have included Four Seasons, Acqualina Resort & Residences, Yahoo!, American Airlines, Wynn, Douglas Elliman and Corcoran. As an adjunct assistant professor, Limsky has taught journalism, film and creative writing at the City University of New York, Pace University, American University and other colleges.