One of my favorite quotes of Stephen R. Corvey: “Most people do not listen with the intent to listen; they listen with the intent to reply”
Listening is paying attention to what another person is saying. But how do you listen? Do you listen to get an understanding of what the person is saying? Or, are you listening to respond to what the individual is saying? While I do not purport to be a listening expert, I know there is a significant difference in how we listen.
Our listening style can affect our communication or the way we communicate. Listening to understand is listening attentively to see what the individual is saying from his or her perspective. Listening to respond means you might not have an understanding of what the person is saying, you are simply waiting your turn to respond.
Say, you decide to listen to understand, then, what’s next? Well, after you have obtained an understanding, you are better equipped to respond from a sound premise. You are aware what the individual’s intentions or thoughts are and now you can address them responsibly. Attentively listening to understand avoids the dynamics of responding but not addressing the matters at hand. The individual speaking will not have to continue to repeat or clarify what he or she is saying. In other words, you may save the both of you from further frustration.
If you are like me, you have found yourself responding before a person is finished speaking. If so, then you have listened to respond. We’ve all been there. Listening actively to understand takes practice and a conscious effort. We all believe what we are saying is important. But, if you’re not listening to understand, try exercising this type of listening. You may find it will allow you to understand what a person mean instead of what you think you hear them saying.