Two Steps Toward Understanding


I’m at a conference this week. It’s one of those week-long, feedback-heavy, coach-intensive kinds of experiences where I know exactly zero people. This is a fun thing for the extrovert in me, but it also challenges me in one BIG way: to listen quickly and listen well.

Best-selling author Stephen Covey says, “most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

Ouch. Guilty as charged.

Am I alone?  Do you ever think about your end of the dialog more than being in the moment and listening?  What would it take for you to let go of your agenda and allow the other person to steer the conversation?

How challenging is it to be fully engaged in the moment?  If you’re like I am, only two factors ALWAYS make an impact:

1. Unplug

Silence the phone. Leave your electronics in the purse, in the book bag, or in another room.  Honor the time with the person in front of you by ignoring those who aren’t.

I have yet to master this discipline, but I won’t hear well until I do.

2. Be Interested

Everyone you meet has a story to tell.  Are you interested?  What if the person survived a plane crash last week, would you want to hear that story?  Or maybe they had tea with the Queen of England, that would be fascinating too. I hope I’m not so unimaginative that people have to show up with big drama to capture my attention.

Some of the best stories are in the little thing: the elevator ride gone awry, the fascinating fort, or the ham that didn’t fit the pan.

The benefit of listening well is understanding, is “getting it.”

We all want that, right?