Not that long ago two friends of mine ended their long relationship.
She eagerly wanted commitment, talked with him about it often, and tried countless ways to impose it upon him. He zealously did not want commitment, openly said so, and consistently maintained his own ways. After several years, she finally listened to him.
The late leadership authority Dr. Stephen Covey cautioned that, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
How many times do we find ourselves guilty of hearing without listening?
We hear a pitch for a diet plan, without listening that when we have shed the weight and go back to eating in the way that made us fat in the first place, we’ll become fat again.
We hear the promise of purchasing a home using a mortgage with an initial low-interest rate, without listening that the home is beyond our means when we are obliged to pay the higher rate.
At work, we hear problems of hiring and retaining the right staff without listening that we need to increase compensation or alter some workplace practices, or both. We hear of problems of continued poor product quality, climbing customer dissatisfaction or falling sales, without listening that fundamental changes are urged.
Dr. Covey recognized this problem of hearing without listening when he said, “But until a person can say deeply and honestly, ‘I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,’ that person cannot say, ‘I choose otherwise’.”
Had my friend listened to what was being said, she would have known their goals for the relationship were misaligned. Instead of spending years frustrated in an unsatisfying relationship, she could have chosen to look elsewhere for a partner who shared in her desire for commitment. In breaking their relationship, she has chosen otherwise.
It is not enough to speak honestly about what we want; we have to be open to listening to what others say, and to respecting their truths even as we respect our own. Once we listen to their truth, then we can make our choices.
Life Is Honest, Open and True: What about you? Is there a problem in your life right now because you have trouble with listening? When we hear with the intention of listening to what is really said, we open the door to making choices that can give us a better life.