First seek to understand before you seek to be understood. Stephen Covey lists this simple principle among his list of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. How good are you at listening…really listening? This is definitely an area for needed growth and improvement for me. I often catch myself formulating my response well before the other person is finished talking. This seems to be particularly true when I’m disagreeing with someone on a position and the debate is on. Here’s some great advice for people like me from the Book of James:
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human angerdoes not produce the righteousnessGod desires. (James 1:19-20)
I love the contrast in this passage between “quick” to hear and “slow” to speak. James adds “slow to anger” because he knows that when we get this backwards and are quick to speak and slow to hear, frustration builds. If it continues, the frustrations heats up to the point of anger. There is nothing more frustrating and fruitless than two people talking and eventually shouting past each other and neither one is listening. That’s not very healthy and there certainly isn’t any real communication going on. Communication simply defined is “a message sent and a message received”. Healthy communication is when the message sent and the message received are understood in the same way. Healthy communication takes work, patience, understanding and humility.
The timeless wisdom of James’ advice can make a huge difference in your communication style today. Try it out. As leaders, we set the culture of communication in our organization. Commit today to be more intentional about listening well. Slow down and wait to understand before you respond. If you do this daily and you’ll be sure to have healthy communication culture with your team.
“It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.” ~ Yogi Berra