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Many miscommunications are perpetuated by people who fail to check that they are either being understood correctly or correctly understanding someone.
One effective means to overcome misunderstandings is to repeat back to the person what you think they said.
“If I’m understanding you correctly, what you’re saying is…”
In that way, you can make sure you’re on the same page and not wasting unnecessary time & energy — or potentially making things worse.
Many misunderstandings also happen because, rather than listen closely to what others are saying, people often use the time that others spend speaking to plan what they’re going to say next. They listen to reply, rather than listen to understand.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” — Stephen R. Covey
This is often evidenced by how often people interrupt each other.
Unless it is for the purpose of clarification, interrupting someone to steer a conversation in a different direction is not only an indication that you aren’t listening closely, it’s a sign that you think what you have to say is more important than what the speaker is saying.
While interrupting someone can be acceptable in fun and playful conversations between friends, it can be disrespectful and potentially hazardous in any exchange meant to be taken seriously.
While it’s important to be able to express yourself clearly, it’s equally, if not more important to be able to listen effectively.
There is truth in this ancient wisdom from Epictetus, the Greek Sage and Stoic philosopher:
“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
We learn much more through listening carefully than we do by thinking about what we’re going to say when the person speaking stops talking.
There is great power in being a person who can listen effectively.
“There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.” — G.K. Chesterton
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