Healthier relationships through intentional listening

Listen to understand.

We all should be well aware that during an election year, discussions about candidates, issues on the ballot, and community concerns could provide some bombastic conversations. These conversations can happen anywhere, with anyone and almost anytime. Coincidentally, other conversations aside from politics can create difficult discussions too. A simple comment can turn lunch with a friend or colleague into an “interesting” discussion where either person can be on opposite sides of any given issue or candidate. Although I enjoy a good argument, you may find information, details and attitudes about many issues from your company/guest that either you do or do not necessarily agree with. What do you do if you find yourself becoming agitated as you receive information from someone?

This article is going to offer one piece of knowledge that is basic listening! We often listen to respond versus listening to understand. What? Yes, that’s right. While we are receiving information from the person whom is speaking, we are quickly conjuring a reply to what they are saying from our own point of view rather than really listening to understand the other person’s perspective. It’s natural to begin formulating your reply as the other person speaks. It is not natural for you to listen to understand. The art of listening to understanding takes practice. Steven Covey in one of his leadership and personal change books wrote, “Listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply”. This skill will take time to develop and, often, the skill becomes important to develop or maintain relationships that we may cherish with friends, family and co-workers.

Consider all the conversations that you have had over the Thanksgiving dinner with family, lunch with a friend, or a co-worker at the office water cooler. We have all had them and the level of comfort during and after can make us feel good or bad. The point is, in an effort to maintain a healthy relationship with the other individual in the future it may be worth considering this new listening strategy. Try it out during this mid-term election cycle or during the holiday gatherings with family. It may be the best skill you could ever develop to have difficult discussions and maintain good relationships.

Remember, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” Steven Covey’s message in the Fifth habit.

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