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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