When people speak, do you listen? Of course you listen to the words that leave their mouth and process their surface-level meaning. If you didn’t do that you wouldn’t get very far. But there is listening, and then there is deep listening; the kind where you immerse yourself fully in the other person’s perspective and seek to internalize not only their words but their point of view.
Some people listen to respond. Others listen to hear things that will confirm their beliefs and pre-existing notions. Very few people listen with the true intention of understanding.
The key to deep listening is to seek first to understand, as Stephen Covey puts it, and only then to be understood. Listening to understand means putting aside pre-conceived notions, and pressing the pause button on the machine in our brains that constantly seeks to craft a response to every sentence we hear based on our own perceptions and experiences.
Every day the people around us tell us who they are; They tell us with their words and they tell us with their actions. Far too often, we ignore what they are telling us, because we want them to be someone else, and so we listen with an agenda; namely, to confirm that they are who we want them to be.
If you shift your mindset from listening to respond to listening to understand, what will you learn about the people around you?