YKK Fundamental Behavior 15 – Listen to Understand
I talk with my 80-year-old father on regular basis, and he always has a list of items he wants to tell me about. He will talk for 2-3 mins about a topic, and I provide him with a 30 second response that would typically require an additional comment from him, but instead he will move to the next item on his list. He is so intent on making sure he covers all the items on his list that he is hearing me speak but not listening to what I am saying.
While “Listen to Understand” sounds like a simple enough concept, we have such a hard time with it. Most of the time, multi-tasking gets in the way. We sit in meeting with our computer in front of us, trying to do multiple things at the same time, so we may only be listening to half of a meeting or conversation while trying to get other tasks completed. While this seems like a good use of time, it can sometimes result in a lack of full understanding of the task at hand or the issue that needs to be resolved. Please remember that there are other members of your team in the meeting, and by not providing them with your attention, you are telling everyone that the meeting is not important to you.
As with most of the Fundamental Behaviors, Listening to Understand is not just something that applies to work, it also applies to homelife. Over the years, my wife and I have determined that life is moving so fast that we are not able to just sit down and talk to each other. Conversations happen while dinner is being made, house is being cleaned, or the kids are being taking to sports and other activities. Only about half of the conversation being shared by one person is being received by the other one. So, every once in a while, when we need to make sure the other person is listening, we will stop, look at each other, and make sure we have the others full attention and they are engaged in the topic. By stopping what we are doing and creating eye contact we force the engagement in the conversation.
Keep in mind, when someone comes to you with an issue or a question, it is not because you were the first person they saw. It is typically because they value your opinion and decision. By being engaged and listening, you can provide them valuable information and strengthen your relationship with them.
Kenneth G. Jason, PE
VP – Engineering
Erie Architectural Products Inc.