One of Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits…” is “Seek first to understand, then be understood.” As you know, by this he means you should first listen completely to someone else, without interrupting, then when it’s your turn, you can make your point.
He goes on to explain that if while the other person is speaking, you’re dancing from foot to foot, impatient to make your point, then you’re not listening to the other person.
When I first read that, I remembered with some guilt the many times I was in that exact situation, and since then, have seen others frequently do the same thing.
This morning, I was reading an article by James Altucher that put a new perspective on this point.
I had a dinner with Michael Fishman last week. He said, “If even for one second you are preparing your response while someone else is talking, then you aren’t listening.”
That’s pretty wise, Michael!
My technique is this. Someone talks. I count to two. Then I prepare my response and not before then.
Oh, my. He’s absolutely right.
The guilt I felt over my past behavior on reading the Covey illumination came back once more on reading Altucher.
When our kids are young, we try to teach them it’s impolite to interrupt. I used to try to make a point by saying, “If you interrupt while someone else is talking, you are by your actions telling that person, ‘Hey! I’ve got something to say that’s more important than whatever you’re saying, so shut up and let me talk!’ ”
That’s harsh, but I still believe it’s true. No one wants to believe they are that rude, but when you interrupt someone, isn’t that exactly what you’re telling them?
From reading this, in my future conversations, I’ve decided to try to be a better listener. How about you?