“Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” – Stephen R. Covey
People ‘listen’ with the aim of replying instead of understanding. Sometimes they may want to cut the conversation short, so they make it look like they understand so they can move on; they say ‘no, yeah, I totally get it.’ Bullshit.
Firstly, it’s not necessarily a bad thing since they’re trying to make you feel better, but it’s not a good thing either because in a way, they’re also lying. By doing this, whomever is on the receiving end, makes the conversation meaningless.
If you intend to reply to make the other person feel better or think a certain way, then you’re not really going to bother listening because you don’t really care about what they are saying. Everyone is guilty of doing this, even if you don’t realise it in that moment. It’s a form of deception; you’re saying ‘I understand’ when you don’t because all you really want to do is get YOUR point across. If you’re alright with that then I feel like you need to re-evaluate how you treat people, and if not, why continue? But that’s a discussion for another day.
In my opinion, Stephen R. Covey’s statement on understanding and replying is in fact true, even though admittedly I never thought about it in this way until a few months back. Back then I listened with the intent of replying not understanding, and it was only a few short weeks ago that I came to this realisation. This is because when you’re going through something tough, you don’t really want to hear all the crap that other people are saying so your automatic reply is usually, ‘I understand but…’ And this could be the very definition of listening with the intent to reply, not to understand; other people may be telling you what is or what isn’t good for you but you don’t want to hear or understand what they’re saying because you believe that you need that drink, or you need to stay in bed etc. So, you plan what you’re going to say while the other person is talking to make them think you understand but you just say you do to end the conversation.
Additionally, there should be no ‘but’ if you truly understood what the other person was saying. Questions? Sure, they can be asked due to it actually showing your interest in the matter; on the other hand, if you use ‘but’ it’s probably because you’ve been thinking about your response to try and make them understand you and your point and vice-versa. One person is just as bad as another when it comes to responding and understanding, because I can say that most people are probably used to hearing the phrase ‘I understand, but…’
One the other hand, as many individuals are aware, a variety of things can change your perspective on certain matters. It could be that even though you tried to, you didn’t properly understand before, but then something else happened to you that changed your point of view and therefore your understanding. Although, you should note that as time goes by your knowledge expands and therefore your understanding of certain subjects also expands.
An example scenario of this would be…
A relative informs you of a tragedy, such as an accident or death.
Your response? – ‘What?’, ‘Excuse me?’, just silence? or ‘I don’t understand…’
This is partly for the obvious reason of shock, but also because no one really wants to hear bad news like an accident or a death, therefore they don’t want to believe it.
This leads to them not understanding, but just focusing on what they should reply with: respond not understand.
You act like you understand because you need to know important details such as what happened, even though you probably wouldn’t really listen because you’d be so preoccupied with trying to grasp any information.
(Or in another scenario, you need to reassure someone of something… Reassure. Think on that, I’ll come back to it.)
Once the commotion has died down, you could probably only give a couple of facts about what or why this situation occurred.
For example, who was hurt, how bad are the injuries or who started the argument etc…
This is because you didn’t take the time to listen and understand everything about the situation, such as asking questions and actually waiting for an answer without digging around your head for the next question.
Furthermore, I find Covey’s quote can connect from other arguable statements such as ‘emotions cloud judgement’; which I believe they do: being anxious can cause things such as confusion.
Finally, to emphasis my argument from a different angle, going back to what I previously said about reassurance, I said this because you reassure others by responding with what they want to hear, not necessarily what they need to hear. Am I wrong?
Therefore, you listen to reassure them by replying, not fully understanding that the truth may not be what they want to hear, but they need to hear to actually understand the situation and to be able to get through it.