To Listen Better, Try Slow Understanding
We prize intellectual speed because it reflects talent and “on-your-feet” smarts. So, we listen less and respond to others too quickly. But mental speed comes with a cost, particularly when it is expressed as an answer or rebuttal. We miss important understandings. We pass over essential learnings. We become blind to conversational nuances.
To improve listening, many of the best leaders make a conscious effort to understand more slowly.
The idea behind Slow Understanding is to prevent faulty assumptions by moving more slowly when we listen. When we engage in the practice of Slow Understanding, the listener presumes they don’t understand, even when they think they do.
This presumption requires us to listen for understanding, ask clarifying questions, and spend the time to excavate what people mean. By listening as if we are wrong about, or don’t fully understand, what we just heard, Slow Understanding pushes us to pause and ask the other party to further clarify what they mean.
While our initial instinct is to presume we understand how to respond, the practice of Slow Understanding requires us to pause and to clarify before we take our turn. This requires us to suspend judgment and seek to understand at a deeper level than we normally do.
Let’s face it, even the best among us often fail to truly listen. Instead, we wait for people to stop talking so we can start. Slow understanding requires us to quiet the inner voice and suppress any running commentary when listening. In contrast to poor listening, this practice asks us to presume we don’t understand just yet, and to listen and act accordingly.
We respect people most when we listen deeply to them. By consciously presuming we don’t understand, we can listen in a new and powerful way. Slow Understanding even makes listening more fun. Try it and see if you can wait just a little longer for your turn to speak!