This the second of several postings this week regarding my new, just-released book: The Transparent Leader: Clear and Effective Leadership Communication.
Listen First, Then Speak
When people at work or at home come to us with problems, what’s the natural tendency for just about anyone? If you said, “Give advice,” you’d be right. Especially when you’re more experienced and worse yet, think you absolutely know the correct answer. Unfortunately, unless the other person asks specifically for our advice, we make an error trying to offer it. The minute we start lecturing, we hijack the conversation. In a sense we steal the other person’s cathartic moment. She doesn’t get a chance to vent her story, which for many is all they really want—a listening, empathetic ear, not a talking head.
Stephen Covey and indeed St. Francis of Assisi talk about first seeking to understand and then seeking to be understood. Thus, in even a more direct confrontation—or face-to-face difference of opinion—you still are far better off asking questions and seeking to understand the other person’s perspective first before offering your solution. By listening with a keen, here-and-now ear, you not only let the other person vent his/her feelings and emotions, but such listening also allows you to clearly understand the issue(s) and the intensity of emotion behind them. Thus, you can evaluate the facts and intensity of the issue before uttering a word.