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Why You Need To Understand Before Being Understood

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In previous posts I’ve often referenced the power of listening. Whether it be to your colleagues, manager, customers or suppliers; listening is incredibly important to how you can better understand the people around you.

But listening is just one part of the equation. Listening gets you to a certain point, but truly understanding the other person, well that’s something else altogether. Listening for the sake of listening (i.e. so you can be that person that looks like they care) is just simply a waste of everyone’s time.

You’ve probably heard the term active listening. It’s where you’re doing just that; actively rather than passively listening to the other person. Showing and acknowledging that you’re taking in what they’re saying; and in your own mind, staying there, present in the room, not letting your mind wander but immersing yourself in the person opposite you. That’s a beautiful thing.

More beautiful because of the fact that today we’re are so easily distracted, achieving something like this is far harder to do. Having a simple conversation where you walk away from the other person knowing, really knowing, them and what they’re all about is a rare thing.

In order to do this, it means putting everything else on hold when you’re in that conversation. It’s very easy to start thinking about your to-do list, when was that deadline again? Who was the person I had to email about that thing?

If you start doing this, you lose focus of what the other person is actually saying and you miss important clues that tell you more about their objectives and motivations.

More so, you miss the opportunity to be understood yourself. Because how can you expect someone else to understand who you are if you don’t try to understand them first?

Ever felt frustrated coming out of a meeting because you felt like the other person didn’t get where you were coming from? This can be for a myriad of factors, but ask yourself if it might have been because you were focused on getting your point across first, you didn’t listen and in turn you didn’t give yourself the chance to understand where the other person was coming from.

Start by putting the other person first. You’ll have things you want to focus on, sure, but see how successful you can be by understanding first. Chances are, it’ll save you time but most importantly, you’ll get to a far better outcome for both parties.

Tim Mullen

Tim is Co-Founder and Head of Customer Experience at Jobvibe. We help teams work better together. Jobvibe is a simple, smart mobile platform to gather real-time feedback from your team, openly discuss results and improve the way you work together.