Effective communication is a cornerstone of human interaction, particularly if you want to live and work in a high-performing company where employees love to do their best work. However, many leaders, or, for that matter, employees at all levels (especially the inexperienced ones), focus solely on making a business case for their opinions and ideas rather than fully understanding others. In this article, we will explore the importance of fully understanding before seeking to be understood, backed by research and supported by reasons why this approach is more constructive. Additionally, we will provide the necessary instructions on implementing this principle in your communication strategies.
- Research supporting the importance of understanding: Numerous studies have highlighted the significance of understanding before seeking to be understood. Research by Dr. Stephen R. Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” emphasizes the principle of empathic communication, which involves active listening, seeking to understand the perspectives of others, and demonstrating empathy. Studies have shown that empathic communication fosters trust strengthens relationships, and leads to more successful outcomes in various professional contexts.
- Why making business cases for your opinion can be destructive:
A Limited Perspective. We need to understand others’ viewpoints to see the bigger picture. By solely advocating for our ideas, we may overlook valuable insights and alternative solutions others can offer.
b. Lack of Collaboration: When we approach discussions solely intending to present our business case, we inadvertently discourage collaboration. Collaboration thrives when individuals feel heard and valued, fostering an environment that encourages diverse perspectives and collective problem-solving.
c. Missed Opportunities for Learning: By actively seeking to understand others, we open ourselves to new ideas and perspectives. It enables us to learn from different experiences, challenge our assumptions, and broaden our knowledge base.
- Key instruction points for practicing understanding: a. Active Listening: Engage in active listening by focusing on the speaker, maintaining eye contact, and genuinely seeking to comprehend their viewpoint. Avoid interrupting or formulating responses prematurely.
b. Empathy and Perspective-taking: Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Seek to understand their emotions, motivations, and underlying concerns. This empathic approach allows for more meaningful connections and facilitates effective problem-solving.
c. Ask Clarifying Questions: When someone expresses an opinion or idea, ask open-ended questions to gain a deeper understanding. Encourage them to elaborate and provide additional context, ensuring you fully grasp their perspective.
d. Reflect and Summarize: Demonstrate your understanding by reflecting on what you have heard. Summarize the key points to ensure accuracy and show that you value their input.
e. Find Common Ground: Look for shared interests or goals, even if you initially disagree on specific aspects. Building on common ground establishes a foundation for effective collaboration and constructive dialogue.
Conclusion: In a world where effective communication is vital for success, understanding others before seeking to be understood holds immense value. By embracing this principle, we can foster stronger relationships, encourage collaboration, and harness the collective wisdom of diverse perspectives. Let us strive to become active listeners, practice empathy, and embrace the power of understanding in our professional interactions. Remember, by seeking to understand, we create an environment where ideas flourish and achieve emotional connection and an organizational culture where employees love to do their best work and prove it.