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Listening for Understanding

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What type of listener are you?

Do you listen to understand? Or are you listening to reply? Or agree? Or disagree?

One of the greatest kindnesses we can share with another human being is sitting down and listening to them. Allowing the person across the table to express their thoughts and opinions on subjects that are important to them is essential to relationship building.

Genuine listening takes patience and openness. We have lost this skill in our fast-paced digital world — Algorithms are targeting us, 140 characters taunt us with brevity, thumbs are up, or down, or you are unfollowed and tuned out. 

Listening for understanding requires:

• Paying attention to learn — not merely to reply or share a rebuttal with your opinion.

• Simply accepting the words being said — not correcting them.

Discovering the intention behind the words being said — not just the words on the surface.

I learned a long time ago that when you strive to understand each other it does not mean you have to agree. Understanding someone means you’re more likely to try to work together, find commonalities and find new solutions.

It all starts with taking the time to listen to another person’s point-of-view with the goal of truly understanding them. Give it a try next time someone opens up to you. It will make us all (and our work) better.