Sometimes in business intentions do not lead to the desired impact. Leadership expert Katherine Farnworth investigates the dynamics of listening first
It’s an interesting thing considering the difference between intention and impact. When we communicate with others, is the impact we make, the one we intended? Did the impact we give, align to our intention? How do we know if it did? Perhaps we can, by observing the reaction of the other person, if we are inclined to do so.
I remember working with an individual, David, who really loved to help people. So much so that when he communicated he would tell them what he knew, and how he could help them. His driver was to be as supportive as possible. Despite his well-meaning intention, the impact was slightly different. What impact do you think he created? On occasion people used to say something along the lines of, ‘Well, I know he is a nice guy, but does he really have to tell us how good he is? He is always telling us what we might need, rather than listening’.
Although David’s intention was to help, he did not create that impression. And yet if he had listened, genuinely and wholeheartedly first, it would have felt to the receiver that he has acknowledged what they are saying, what they might need, and then his suggestions and ideas might have fallen on more receptive ears.
The ‘push-pull’ model deals with either ‘my agenda’ (push) or ‘your agenda’ (pull). Many of us will try to get our point across and then, knowing we have imparted that information, feel able to listen. However, by doing that we have worked to our agenda, and may limit our ability to interact in a positive way. By focusing on the other persons agenda (pull) first, by listening, we can start to build a relationship. The other person, once listened to, feels acknowledged, understood and might be more inclined to reciprocate.
The ‘push’ might be acceptable for a short term relationship (returning an item to a retailer) or a non-negotiable between manager and employee, but since most of us work with people every day, fostering long term relationships can be beneficial, and that is all about the other person’s agenda, the ‘pull’.
Many of us understand the importance of listening. But it seems if we listen first, we can have more of a positive impact. By listening first we can allow someone to feel listened to. And that can be powerful and really start to build relationships. As we know without a constructive working relationship, it is difficult to achieve all our objectives.
As the saying goes, ‘seek first to understand, to be understood’. Sometimes the best way we can communicate is by saying nothing at all. And listen, not after we have said our piece, but before.