The Art of Listening for Understanding

Have you ever talked with someone and left feeling like they really saw you and that they valued what you shared with them? They probably had great listening skills. There are many different ways and reasons to listen. Sometimes we listen to music for the simple enjoyment of it and at other times we use music to express feelings that we are having difficulty expressing with words. We listen to teachers, instructors, pastors, and podcasts in order to learn. We listen to a friend share struggles or joys so that we can connect. I want to talk about what it looks like to listen to understand.

Picture this... you are sitting at a restaurant out with your friends and one of your friends starts to share about the difficulties they are having with a co-worker. They share that they worked together on a big project and in fact they did most of the work but on the day it was to be presented to their manager they came down with food poisoning and was unable to make it to the presentation. The next day they discovered that their co-worker took full credit for the project and told their manager that in fact your friend was lazy and difficult to work with. Can you feel your temperature rising at the injustice of the situation. You know your friend and their work ethic and are positive that the co-worker is a horrible person! Definitely the villain! Do you have a bunch of "well you should..." statements on the tip of your tongue? Me natural reaction is to want to reassure my friend, validate their worth and abilities and encourage them to go confront that villain of a co-worker!

When we listen for understanding we don't do any of those things. We separate ourself from our own emotions and focus on our friend. The goal is not to offer amazing advice or encouragement at this point in a conversation. We need to ask good questions in order to understand the situation fully. We could repeat back what we heard our friend say and ask them "Did I hear you right?" The value of being heard and understood is vital! Here's my challenge to you. In the next conversation you have pause, ask a few questions then repeat what you heard the person say and ask if you heard them correctly. You will be amazed at how people will respond to your desire to hear and understand them.

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Until next time...

Live out your design, purpose and passion!

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