Do you hear or do you listen?

“The best way to persuade people is with your ears – by listening to them.”

Dean Rusk

There is a marked difference between hearing and listening. To hear is to acknowledge the content that others are seeking to share. To listen, well, that means that you desire to understand why they need to share it.  You are seeking to learn their view of the world through empathy and understanding.  

John Maxwell stated that “leadership is influence.”  The key to building influence is not built on fostering an ability to hear but instead is predicated on nurturing a deep desire and ability to listen genuinely. Only then can you possibly begin to persuade… 

Do you have time for some R&D?

“Our soul desires to be understanding, our ego is only concerned with being understood. When you are being understanding you are connected to your soul.”

Michaiel Bovenes

Make a list of the people with whom you feel the most connected. Reflect on their actions and behaviors towards you. Are they interested in YOU or in something that you can provide for THEM?

Connection, real connection happens when another person leans into you, not for their benefit, but for yours. To be on the receiving end of these behaviors feels good. There is such warmth generated by those that surrender their ego and focus on understanding others.  

Look back at the list you made and pick out a name. Now write down three things that they do behaviorally that you can learn from, emulate, and make part of your own set of behaviors. Start doing them.  

My definition of R&D is “ripoff and duplicate.” There isn’t a better place to conduct some R&D than on the behaviors of those who excel at understanding.  

Seek first…to serve…

“Grant that I may not so much seek…to be understood, as to understand…”

From the “Prayer of St. Francis” of Assisi

I always thought that “seek first to understand, and then to be understood,” was from Dr. Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Sounds like this wisdom has been been around for just a little while longer!

There is something so powerful that comes from asking a question with the intent to learn and truly hear what the other person has to say. Though I would argue that learning something new or different is likely the second most impactful outcome.

The most important, and meaningful, impact is on the person who is heard. They will be uplifted, encouraged, and feel valued. Seems like a pretty good deal to me. You learn, and you empower and enable at the same time. We could certainly use more of that in our world for sure.

Surrender in order to learn…

“Earn the right to be heard by listening to others. Seek to understand a situation before making judgments about it.”

John Maxwell

When I read this quote I immediately thought of the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” I haven’t read this book in a number of years but it has long been one of my favorites. Habit #5 from the book is “Seek first to understand, then be understood” and it is probably one of my absolute favorites. I know that I use this phrase all the time when communicating with others about the importance of digging deep and trying to understand any situation.

I think the same principle either from that habit or from this quote applies when trying to understand oneself and our behavior. What are the deep questions that you ask yourself in challenging situations or even when you are just trying to grow and learn? How do you slow down to ensure that you are really thinking the right things through?

There is a key thought outlined in the quote above that is so important and bears further rumination. “Seek to understand a situation before making judgments about it.”  I think that is the aspect that so many folks, most certainly including myself, miss out on. We are listening (or at least we tell ourselves we are) but we are listening to find fault, or to prepare our side of the argument. Research shows that most people are simply listening to respond, not understand, and certainly not with judgment. How do you ensure that you have suspended judgment so that you can truly understand?

Maybe it is as simple as this. To understand, to truly understand without making judgments, one must surrender the need the be right. Much easier said than done of course however think through how liberating that could be when really getting deep into a topic or situation. I believe doing that is what enables the first part of this quote to happen. If you do this well, you earn the right to be heard…

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