Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then be understood

People for the most part want to be understood. You want to be understood, right? It is about communication, relationships and knowing how to say the correct things to the right people.
What are your intentions?
When you wish to communicate something to someone it may be for a number of reasons.
  1. to vent out of anger or frustration - I took the golf team to the course to practice in the 15 passenger green van. There were plenty of parking spaces, so I parked next to the chipping area using two spaces so the door of the van would not open and hit any cars next to us. The extra space would allow the young players to get there clubs out without damaging vehicles or standing in the parking lot and potentially block cars from driving through. I thought I was doing a service to the golfing community. After an hour or so we returned and as the students were putting their clubs in the van a car came by slowly and a man had a frustrated look on his face. About 5 minutes later the same gentleman, came up to about 25 feet from us and yelled, "I do not see any other vans taking up 2 spaces." I told him I was trying to create space so our loading and unloading student's clubs would not damage other vehicles." He gave me an angry look and said, " Park in a spot further away where the van will fit." Then, he walked away. The man did not want seek to understand my position. He only wanted to vent a frustration.
  2. to control your environment- I have known people who just talk because they are nervous or uncomfortable. By talking continuously, a person dominates the conversation or group. It paralyzes any meaningful interaction. They are not seeking to understand you, nor they may not even be seeking to be understood. Just the sound of their voice calms them and does not allow anyone to invade their happy space they have created. The other end of the spectrum is the person who does not want to understand your position and only demands your attention. This may be good in military situations, but awful in team setttings.
  3. to seek to be understood - in seeking to be understood one must communicate in such a way that the listener will understand. Thus, it is good advise to first seek to understand your listener, by listening to them first. Seek to understand your audience. Ask questions to understand your audience. Restate what you think you are hearing in their response to your questions. Read their nonverbal reactions to your questions. Some call this empathic listening. The empathic listening responses are:
  • mimic content - just repeat what was just said
  • rephrase content - repeat, but in your own words
  • reflect feeling - express what you think the other feels
  • rephrase content and reflect feeling - combine the latter two

In doing so, you may alter or refine the way you deliver your content in such a way that your message will be understood.

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