I was reminded recently of this great quote from Stephen Covey:
Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.’
Oops – I’m certainly guilty of this at times. I’m so eager to jump in with my experience, perspective or (obviously hilarious) anecdote that I forget to focus on what the other person is saying.
And the same can happen in our written communications – whether a text, email or instant message.
We’re so quick to hit reply that we forget to properly read the original message.
Not just for what’s said (we’re bad at that too), but for what’s left unsaid.
And there’s so often more at play than first meets the eye.
- our frustrating client postpones a meeting for the third time, could there be budget worries in the background?
- our boss sends us a brusque set of instructions with no thank you in sight, are they really just venting their worry about their board presentation tomorrow?
- our colleague sends passive-aggressive chaser emails, is it actually about them wanting to finish the project in time for the next promotion cycle?
Taking a moment to read between the lines gives us a different perspective on the message and its author.
Try asking: What is this message really saying?
It helps us formulate the best response, rather than the obvious one.
Especially important here in the UK in January where it’s dark, cold and everyone’s a little bit grumpy…