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Listening to understand

By Kelly Field
October 14, 2022

In my first blog for Creative Bridge, I talk about the difference between listening to reply and listening to understand, and why this matters.

Listening to understand

We all listen to reply most of the time.

When someone starts talking, we immediately begin to form our response while also contemplating other thoughts like finishing an email, making a call or thinking about what we’ll have for dinner.

The same happens in meetings. One person will be speaking and then others start to interject before the speaker has even finished or is at their first pause.

But by allowing this to happen we risk missing bits of what’s being said and, importantly, how that person is feeling.

Listening to understand is about giving that person your full attention, so as well as hearing you see and feel what they have to say. It’s also about not being afraid to pause or feeling you have to respond. Sometimes people just need someone to hear them and to feel safe sharing their thoughts.

We can show understanding with just a simple nod of the head or by saying ‘yes’ or ‘go on’. If you feel a response is needed, make sure the person has finished and then give yourself time to properly consider this.

Sometimes it’s right that you give a considered amount of space before replying particularly, when it relates to a professional matter. This shows you’re serious and want to take time to formulate your thinking and advice.

This stuff matters because when people feel listened to, they feel valued. And if you work for them, they’ll appreciate you more and you’ll be motivated to perform better. The same goes for clients and customers, when people feel listened to and a part of the service you’re providing, they’ll want to use you again and again.

For more on this or related advice on tone of voice and employee engagement, please get in touch.