Poor Abbott. Poor Costello. In the classic sketch Who’s On First, they heard each other’s words but just couldn’t seem to understand what each other was saying.
It’s no secret that we all desire to be listened to and we all want to be understood.
I am right. You are wrong. Why should I listen to you? Wait, what?!? You don’t understand what I’m saying? How is that even possible?
In the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey said, “If you’re like most people you probably seek first to be understood; you want to get your point across. And in doing so, you may ignore the other person completely, pretend that you’re listening, selectively hear only certain parts of the conversation, or attentively focus on only the words being said, but miss the meaning entirely. So why does this happen?”
Covey goes on to say, “because most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. You listen to yourself as you prepare in your mind what you are going to say, the questions you are going to ask, etc. You filter everything you hear through your life experiences, your frame of reference. You check what you hear against your autobiography and see how it measures up. And consequently, you decide prematurely what the other person means before he/she finishes communicating.”
Author and pastor Andy Stanley likes to say that “Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.”
How about us? Do we first seek to understand what someone else is saying, where they are coming from, or even what the situation is?
We could all stand to do a little better at learning to listen and listening to learn.