To understand or not understand…….that is the question

One of the greatest gifts we can ever give another human being is to help them to feel genuinely understood, and we need to develop this skill for real performance management

Unfortunately, not many people feel understood

In fact, having met hundreds of thousands of people and worked extensively with thousands of them my coach once said at best 2% of those he met felt truly understood.

So it’s a rare thing

There is a Steven Covey quote from 7 habits:

“Seek first to understand before being understood”

Although commendable when it comes to understanding people there is one problem: We can’t give what we don’t have

If someone does not feel deeply understood themselves how can they possibly understand others? How can they even know what that feels like having never experienced it?

If you pay attention while having a conversation with people you will notice that many of them are simply waiting to speak, you will comment about something then they will carry right on talking about themselves – why do people do this?

Simple – they don’t feel understood – they don’t feel heard – they have NEVER felt heard – what they are communicating is an innate need to feel heard and understood.

So, a great many people do not feel understood themselves and if we do not feel understood ourselves we can’t hope to help others to feel understood, further more, if we don’t truly understand someone how can we possibly really listen to them? Impossible.

So as an organisation we have to build our capability to understand others, this requires two primary actions:

Teach people about behaviour, about their fear, about their victimhood, about their anger, about their need for praise or power or safety – and we have to teach them about how they can be irresponsible for example – all these things we must help people to understand.

Then we create an environment where they can share what they see about themselves, a place or opportunity where they can share their behaviours, flaws, mistakes, an environment where they can be……..well……..human

Yep, thats right, you happen to employ human beings, human beings who are, well, flawed – innately flawed.

And the only way they can feel truly heard and understood is if you can create opportunities for them to express…..well, who they are – human, flawed, and sometimes afraid or ashamed or angry or jealous.

Only by doing this do you then begin to create the capability within the organisation to listen and understand others.

A capability that is transformative and profound in its effect

A capability to grow emotionally intelligent people who understands what a colleague is saying when they walk into their office angry, who understands when they get defensive, when they lie, or hide, or run or cling.

Real behavioural change can only come from first understanding behaviour – if you employ humans and expect them not to be human you are doomed – this very expectation is at the heart of why they don’t feel understood – and do you think feeling mis-understood helps them to feel happy, contented, engaged, and safe to talk about their mistakes and flaws? Not a chance.

Engagement isn’t just a corporate communication plan, it’s real, genuine conversations at the coffee machine, between real people who understand you, and moments in time when you FEEL completely understood

And there is something special and rare about that

If you liked this post or think others can benefit from it, please like and share, or comment on what you learnt

If you want to address fear in your own life or in your workplace, get in touch

Have fun!


Leave a Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *