Proportion and context is something we need to consider often as consultants. The ability to maintain a sense of context is key as we work with clients to develop solutions. As leaders we also need to bring this understanding of context to situations as we guide and mentor those within our area of responsibility.
Context is a significant element in our ability to communicate effectively. By understanding situations in perspective, context and in proportion, an equally appropriate, contextual and proportioned response can be made. We all recognize that communication is the number 1 issue mentioned in employee engagement surveys and yet individuals and organizations continually fail to ‘fix’ the problem, if indeed it is fixable at all….
The famous quote that is Habit 5 of Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” and yet many of us struggle to see anything other than with our own perspective and context. Indeed, this is a difficult skill to master and particularly today when all around us narcissism is in vogue.
More often than not we listen to someone with the intention of replying, and therefore as soon as we have a “reply” in mind, we stop listening and wait for our turn to speak. No matter what remarkable new insights are uncovered in the subsequent words from the other person, it is likely that we now have a strong desire to share that initial thought we have and of course need to share before we forget it.
Without context this can get us into trouble. Consider an alternative where we approach a conversation without any need to have the intent of replying, without any need to have a “smart” response, it can change the entire flow of the discussion.
We should take the time to focus on hearing what is actually being said and this takes a conscious effort to do this particularly as we need to supress our need to conjure up our clever response!
Many we come across feel that they have to respond if there was the slightest moment of silence between them and the person they are speaking with. They have prepared a response in their mind at which point they stop listening to the other person and just wait for the other person to finish talking. They simply don’t hear any more words, and sometimes even jump in and interrupt before the other person has finished
Being open to whatever path the conversation takes is a rewarding practice. If we simply sit, feel no need to respond, and focus on hearing every word and learning quickly about the other person’s context, then very often the conversation will go down a whole new path than the “initial thought” we had which we would use to respond with or jump in and cut the conversation off with.
In refining and mastering the art of listening we gain context, a perspective and we get to accomplish a whole new area of understanding.
The biggest reality is that by listening effectively we can potentially help the other person come up with a better solution suited to their context, by listening and asking questions. Don’t suffer from hearing loss…