“What a difference real understanding can make! All the well-meaning advice in the world won’t amount to a hill of beans if we’re not even addressing the real problem. And we’ll never get to the problem if we’re so caught up in our own autobiography, our own paradigms, that we don’t take off our glasses long enough to see the world from another point of view.
When people are really hurting and you really listen with a pure desire to understand, you’ll be amazed how fast they will open up. They want to open up. Children desperately want to open up, even more to their parents than to their peers. And they will, if they feel their parents will love them unconditionally and will be faithful to them afterwards and not judge or ridicule them.
If you really seek to understand, without hypocrisy and without guile, there will be times when you will be literally stunned with the pure knowledge and understanding that will flow to you from another human being. It isn’t even always necessary to talk in order to empathize. In fact, sometimes words may just get in your way That’s one very important reason why technique alone will not work. That kind of understanding transcends technique. Isolated technique only gets in the way.
I have gone through the skills of empathic listening because skill is an important part of any habit. We need to have the skills. But let me reiterate that the skills will not be effective unless they come from a sincere desire to understand. People resent any attempt to manipulate them. In fact, if you’re dealing with people you’re close to, it’s helpful to tell them what you’re doing.
But if we are not sincere, I wouldn’t even try it. It may create an openness and a vulnerability that will later turn to your harm when a person discovers that you really didn’t care, you rally didn’t want to listen, and he’s left open, exposed, and hurt. The technique, the tip of the iceberg, has to come out of the massive base of character underneath.
Empathic listening takes time, but it doesn’t take anywhere near as much time as it takes to back up and correct misunderstandings when you’re already miles down the road, to redo, to live with unexpressed and unsolved problems, to deal with the results of not giving people psychological air.
A discerning empathic listener can read what’s happening down deep fast, and can show such acceptance, such understanding, that other people feel safe to open up layer after layer until they get to that soft inner core where the problem really lies.
People want to be understood. And whatever investment of time it takes to do that will bring much greater returns of time as you work from an accurate understanding of the problems and issues and from the high Emotional Bank Account that results when a person feels deeply understood.”
We can see the world from others’ points of view, but we do not necessarily have to believe it. Wisdom trumps points of view.
Really listening to a hurting person, without interrupting to express your knowledge/wisdom unnecessarily, will pay dividends. Hurting people want us to listen, not interrupt.
Empathic listening does take time, but the Emotional Bank Account investment is well worth the time, and experience.
Next Habit 5
Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood
Then Seek To Be Understood