In my EDL 610 course, which is Visionary Leadership, we are spending time learning, teaching and demonstrating the Habits of Highly Effective Learners by Stephan Covey. This week, the topic is on seeking first to understand, then be understood.
The idea of a collective monologue was shared, where two (or more) people are trying to be understood at the same time. They do this by either talking over one another, or letting one person talk while they formulate their response. In both instances, the person who should be listening is not actually listening, but preparing to talk. This limits, maybe perhaps even stops, the ability to understand the conversation. An idea was shared to combat this; empathetic listening. Rather than judging, probing and even advising, the idea is to reflect ... reflect on feeling, on meaning. It reminds me of a program I ran as an undergraduate at Central Michigan University: The David Garcia Project. This program attempted to show students how to be empathetic, rather than sympathetic, but pushing understanding.
When it comes to making a commitment on this notion of seeking first to understand, then be understood, my commitment is to take the time to understand, not only the nuts and bolts of programs, but on the thoughts and opinions of my team. I will strive to give everyone at the table a voice, a forum to be heard, in a non-threatening atmosphere. I will ask questions to ensure I understand the concept, and work to faciliate understanding among those assembled for that topic.
There is no greater feeling than that of being heard, knowing that the opinion you have to share has been shared and understood.