Seek First to Understand

Outstanding communicators have mastered the skill of asking questions, and then they actively listen to the answers.
John Gualtieri

I believe that in our culture, we have been programmed from the time we enter kindergarten to “tell people things,” versus asking them questions. The trouble is that whether we realize it or not (and this next statement may sound harsh), failing to ask questions when we are engaged in a dialogue with someone, and then failing to actively listen to the answers, is the currency of the self-absorbed individual.

One of the most painful experiences that I have ever had illustrates this point well. When I was selling real estate many years ago, I was one of the first agents in my marketplace to add Internet technology to my value proposition. Back then, we could only upload about 6 photos online, and it was accomplished using a telephone connection! One night, I met with a prospective client who was going to sell her home, and she asked me if I was going to post photos of her home on the Internet. And I couldn’t wait to tell her all about my use of cutting-edge technology! The problem was that she didn’t want photos of her home on the Internet, told me so rather abruptly, and then literally asked me to leave! That misstep cost me a commission check of about $7,000, which back then was a very respectable amount of money.

Pain is a great teacher, and after contemplating what I would have done differently if I could have a do-over, the answer became painfully obvious. I would have asked her this question – “Would you like to have photos of your home on the Internet?” She would have said “No,” and I would have responded, “no problem,” and in about 60 days my checking account would have increased by $7,000!

Might she have extended me a little Grace? Perhaps. Was I too self-absorbed and eager to tell her all about my cutting-edge technology? Definitely! There is a reason that God created us with 2 ears and 1 tongue. We are supposed to listen twice as much as we talk!

Can I honestly claim to be an outstanding communicator because I make a conscious effort to ask great questions versus “telling people things?”

© John G. 2021

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