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Why Listen to Reply Instead of Understand Is the Key to Failure

Why Listen to Reply Instead of Understand Is the Key to Failure

The key to success in any relationship is good communication, but most of us are not taught the fine art of really listening to another person. Taking the advice to listen to understand instead of to reply is very important in relationships with coworkers, partners, parents, and anyone else in your life.

How Most People Listen Isn’t Really Listening

Listening to reply is the standard way that most people communicate. What that means is that instead of really paying attention to what the other person is saying, you are already thinking about what you want to say in response.

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Of course it’s great to have a well-thought-out reply, but if you’re thinking about what you want to say instead of hearing what the other person is saying, you aren’t really listening and communicating well.

You may be getting your point across — or not, if the other person listens the same way you do — but you’re not having a meaningful interaction with the other person.

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What “Listening to Understand” Looks Like

Instead of thinking about what you want to say while the other person is talking, really listen to them. The experts call this “active listening”, and there are a few different components:

  • Pay attention. When someone is talking to you, look at them. Notice their eye contact and body language. Take in their tone of voice as well as what they are actually saying. Really listen.
  • Listen with your body. Turn toward the person who is talking, lean in, and make them feel listened to because you really are listening. Make eye contact, smile, nod, and make leading noises (“Uh-huh”, “Really?”, “Go on”, etc.) when appropriate.
  • Don’t interrupt. The best way to make someone feel like they are not being heard is to interrupt or talk on top of them. Listen fully and wait until they are done to ask questions or add your thoughts.
  • Repeat what they said. Don’t just say what you were planning to say. Show that you have heard what they said by repeating back to them a summary of what you heard when appropriate before adding your own opinions.
  • Respond to what they said. Be honest and respectful in your responses, and remember to talk — and listen — in the ways that you would want to be talked or listened to.

How to Practice Better Listening

Becoming a more active listener really does take practice, so how do you learn to listen to understand instead of to merely reply? First, understand that you won’t be perfect at this overnight, or maybe ever, but you can start working on better listening today and keep trying every day to put these ideals into practice.

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Start by putting down your phone whenever someone is talking to you.

Turn to them, look them in the eyes, and really listen to what they are saying. Don’t assume you know what they want to talk to you about so you don’t really have to pay attention. This is especially important with the kids in your life, because more than anyone else they need to know that you think they are important.

Respond by repeating before commenting.

This classic therapy move really does make people feel heard and understood, and there are times when it can really save your bacon, like when you’re talking to your boss and you don’t fully understand what he/she wants. This is a good trick to use with anyone in any situation.

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Try not to judge.

The hardest part of all in active listening is not being judgmental or jumping to conclusions. When you’re really listening, you need to try to withhold personal thoughts and feelings unless they are requested. Unless they specifically ask for advice, don’t give it. Some people really just want to be heard; they don’t want you to try to fix things. Most of all don’t assume you know more about a situation than the person speaking. “Mansplaining” – or talking down to someone – is never a good idea.

Learning better listening skills is a process, but it’s well worth it because people around you will feel more supported and understood and will definitely like you more as you communicate better with them.

Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

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Sarah White

Freelance Writer, Editor, Professional Crafter

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Last Updated on June 13, 2019

10 Best Success Books You Need to Read to Be Great at Business

10 Best Success Books You Need to Read to Be Great at Business

Take a minute and think about some of the most successful people you know.

I’d bet they’re great with people, are super-productive, and think differently than most. After all, that’s how they got to be where they are today.

Jealous of them? You don’t have to be.

You can learn these same skills by studying some of the best business and success books that can help you take your game to the next level. Here’re 10 of my favorites:

1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

    Dale Carnegie’s best-selling book that helped to launch a personal growth empire should be required reading for everyone who wants to learn how to build and nurture relationships for a lifetime.

    Read this book and you’ll learn some simple advice than can help you build popularity points within your current network and just as important, expand it to others.

    Get the book here!

    2. Focal Point by Brian Tracy

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      Got a lot on your to-do list? Of course you do. But what separates productive people from others is their ability to focus on a singular task at a time, and getting it done before moving on to the next one.

      Sounds simple in theory, but this can be extremely difficult in practice. In Focal Point Brian Tracy offers tips to help build discipline and organization into your day so you can get more stuff done.

      Get the book here!

      3. Purple Cow by Seth Godin

        Creating a “me-too” product can be easy at the start but can doom you to business failure. That’s why marketing maverick Seth Godin recommends creating a product that is truly different from anything already available in the marketplace.

        In essence by making the product different you’ll be building the marketing into the actual product development…which just makes your actual marketing a helluva lot easier.

        Get the book here!

        4. The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz

          If you’ve struggled with procrastination or small thinking, this is the book for you. In it Schwartz offers practical advice that can help you get inspired and motivated to create a bigger life for yourself. And with it can be a more lucrative and rewarding career.

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          Get the book here!

          5. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankel

            It can be difficult for lots of people to keep things in perspective, especially when working on high priority and urgent projects at work.

            Man’s Search for Meaning can be a life-changing book in the sense that it can open your eyes to a first-hand experience of one of the greatest atrocities in the history of mankind, while also teaching a valuable lesson about having purpose.

            Get the book here!

            6. The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

              Solo-entrepreneurs can learn a ton from the guy who made lifestyle design popular. But guess what? The 4HWW isn’t just for guys and girls who want to start a small online business.

              Smart moves like outsourcing, following the 80/20 rule, and automating processes should be made by entry-level workers and established executives alike.

              Get the book here!

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              7. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

                I remember sitting on a couch and opening this book on a Saturday morning, thinking I’d get through a chapter and then get on with my day. Instead, about 12 hours later, I was finished with the book. The concepts in it were mind-blowing to me.

                To think that thoughts can create your reality sounded a little far-fetched at first. But after going through the book and understanding that your thoughts create your beliefs, which lead to actions, which then lead to habits….well you can get where I’m going with this.

                If you focus your thoughts on success, achieving it will be much more likely than thinking about obstacles, failures and everything else that can get in your way.

                Get the book here!

                8. The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard

                  If you’re going to read one management book in your life, this should be it. It’s simple. You can read it in an afternoon. And the advice works.

                  Get the book here!

                  9. The Lean Start-Up by Eric Ries

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                    Before you create any sort of business you’ll want to give Lean Start-Up a read through. Doing so can save you money, time and other resources you could have potentially wasted otherwise.

                    Get the book here!

                    10. The Monk and the Riddle by Randy Komisar

                      The story Randy Komisar shares in the Monk and the Riddle offers advice about not just about how you need to think when starting a new business, but also about how to build a life you’re passionate about.

                      Understanding the technical aspects of launching a start-up is great, but if you don’t have the staying power to stick with it when the going gets tough then it’s not likely to work.

                      This book can help you understand this lesson before you spend blood, sweat and tears on a project that you’re heart isn’t into.

                      Get the book here!

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