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Becoming a Person Centred Leader Part 7: Seek to Understand and then be Understood

We all make meanings of everything in our world and the meanings that you and I  and everyone else make from the same experience, event, picture, book and everything else are likely to be different from each other. Because of this Steven Covey tells us that seeking to understand is an essential element of communication for every leader.

To illustrate, think of your local area and now think of a map of your local area that is to scale and you made it. This map will contain only what you notice and what is important to you. How like the actual place will it be?… The answer is, not very like it probably. There will be lots of things that you don’t notice and that are not important to you that you will leave out and some of the things you include may be a bit distorted! Another person also making a map of the same place will have one that looks different, possibly very different. You each might not even recognise that you have created a map of the same place and a visitor using it to find their way around could be very confused!

So to be able to understand where another person is coming from and what is important to them (i.e. being person centred), we need to find out about their map of their world and also about the map of our shared world.

So how can you seek to understand?

  1. When you are having a conversation, really listen to the other person…and this means not thinking about what you want to say next and waiting to speak… (we all do this!), rather, try to focus on what they are saying – be truly curious.
  2. Clarify to make sure you understand…you said…what did you mean by that…do you mean…? I think I heard you say…is that right?
  3. Ask questions…can you help me understand? – I don’t think I quite get it can you give me a bit more information…?

How can you help others understand you?

Once you have sought to understand where someone is coming from, what their map of the world looks like, you will be able to respond in a way that matches the way they think and see things as you explain how you see your shared world too. As a result of your person centred communicating they will also be more likely to listen to what you have to say.  By doing this you will reach a shared understanding that will enable you move forward in any relationship whether it be at home or at work.

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