“Seek first to understand, then to be understood” ~ Stephen Covey
“Are you listening to me?”
“Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“Are you really listening to me?”
“Listen a hundred times; ponder a thousand times; speak once.” ~ Turkish Proverb
How well do you understand, before you speak?
This past weekend, my wife and I organized and ran a basketball tournament, with a total of 64 teams visiting our gyms over the course of two days. (well…the honest answer is that mostly my wife, Lora, organized it…and everything came together in really amazing ways!). And she came up with the great (well…in whose eyes!?!?) way of fielding everything that came up over the weekend. She would take on any compliments and kind words. I would take care of any and all complaints. (wait…who got the better deal here???)
Really, everything ran smoothly over the weekend (see, that kept HER busy — graciously accepting compliments!!)
Of course, with the sheer number of people that crossed through our doors, the weekend was not incident free. While everything that came up was minor, it also just really highlighted something very important.
“I just want to be heard and valued”.
One particular incident involving a coach and a referee involved me “getting involved” (…that complaint department duty I took on!!). I made it a point to take time alone with the coach, and with the referee — to really understand their points. And I also took time to bring everyone together to share. After our group meeting, I made a point of again talking to each party individually — to one more time, make it clear that their input was valued, and their concerns being heard.
I chose to listen impartially to each person. I chose to reconnect with these same persons again, and to listen one more time.
And I chose to reply with my own thoughts only after knowing that everyone had fully shared their views (and when I was asked for my thoughts).
I share this, because it demonstrates, very clearly, the importance of listening, or perhaps even more than that — of understanding (both spoken word and non-spoken word).
“The reality of the other person lies not in what he reveals to you, but what he cannot reveal to you. Therefore, if you would understand him, listen not to what he says, but rather to what he does not say.” ~ Kahlil Gibran
While I could certainly not fully understand either of these men in the few minutes we had together, I could seek to understand through their words, their actions, their non-verbal signs. In doing that, and in respecting them — I created a place of open dialogue. In that mutual respect, everyone left our “meeting”, with an understanding that they were valued — and with a positive experience even in light of this “issue”.
…by my open and genuine listening to them…
So, think about this? How are you doing at really listening? Are you seeking to understand BEFORE you seek to be understood.
If we have not taken the time to honestly and genuinely understand, rarely will we come close to “getting it right” on what someone else is thinking (and to a greater extent — feeling).
Perhaps an even bigger part of this is how we choose to value the persons with whom we come in contact with. By listening, by showing we care, by seeking to understand first — we touch upon the soul of another being. We touch upon the soul, by valuing each person.
There is no way we can even begin to understand the path that has brought someone to where they are today — just by making some generalizations.
There is no way we can know that his mother just passed away, after a long battle with cancer.
There is no way we can know that her child has been sick, and she is worried.
There is no way we can know that he just celebrated his granddaughter’s first birthday.
There is no way we can know that she is just starting down the road of an unplanned pregnancy.
There is no way we can know that his car needs major repairs, and he’s been living paycheck to paycheck.
There is no way we can know that she just was accepted into the college of her choice.
There is no way we can know that he still faces the demons that haunt him from childhood abuse.
There is no way we can know that she is being re-united with her birth mother after twenty years.
Seek first to understand…
And we may or may not reach these deeper levels. That’s all okay. In valuing another, we touch upon the human condition, that which connects all of us. This is so much more than race, creed, social standing, etc. This is about our humanity — about the value of human life. Not just mere existence, but the depths of our purpose, our life direction, our need for love…
This is also part of the journey for each of us — for me, for you. I am a work in progress — sometimes really “getting” this, and other times completely missing these moments to “understand”.
As you continue on YOUR journey, may you continue to create deeper bonds as you seek also to more fully understand those who travel this path with you.
You are valued.
…and life is a great adventure…
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