Lock It In

In this post, we’ll complete our three-part series on how we can put into action the advice, “Seek First to Understand.” Previously I gave you a tip to deepen understanding while listening to others by keeping a simple question in mind. The last post talked about how you can help further your understanding by asking a simple yet powerful question of the person you’ve been listening to. Today, we’ll wrap up the series by talking about how you can lock in your understanding while increasing the likelihood that someone else will want to understand you.

Let’s recap what’s happened, you’ve listened to something someone else has to say, you’ve asked them questions to get more information about what they have to say. What’s next? Often, the impulse is to launch into giving your thoughts or opinions about the subject at hand. Perhaps what they said reminds you of an experience you want to relate, or perhaps – and this is where you need to be careful – a piece of advice or a solution to the person’s problem pops into your mind that you want to share. Resist that urge!

Given the fact that you’ve listened to this person deeply and shown curiosity about what they said, you probably feel a deep understanding of them, and that’s fantastic, but it isn’t the full equation. Not only do you want to have that understanding inside yourself, but you also want to make sure the other person feels understood. Think of your understanding like wet cement. It looks really good and it has the potential to be solid and strong, but at this moment, it’s delicate and easily damaged. You need to do something to lock in that sense of understanding between you. Once again, there is a very simple technique you can apply to make that happen, and here it is.

Simply tell the other person, “I want to make sure I really understand you, here’s what I think you’re saying” and then tell them how you understood what they said. Reflecting what they said back to them is a powerful demonstration of how invested you are in understanding them. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t there a risk in reflecting to someone what they’ve said, after all, what if you get it wrong. You may even remember getting into arguments with someone where they feel they’ve been misunderstood and claim that you are twisting their words. Here’s why that won’t happen in this situation.

Remember, you’ve already taken steps that have shown your good intent. You’ve listened with empathy, you’ve been open and curious. In other words, you’ve been non-threatening. Because you’ve demonstrated that benevolence towards that other person, that genuine investment in understanding them, they will overlook if you misunderstand them somewhat. Because of the way you set the table, if you misunderstand them, their impulse will be to help clarify their actual thinking. Remain open and curious and they will gladly help you refine your understanding. Once you go through this process, you will have done something very powerful for that other person. You will have made them feel heard. As Maya Angelou reminds us, people remember how you make them feel way more than they remember what you said to them.

Pretty cool right, but wait, there’s more! Humans have a strong drive towards reciprocity. When you do something for someone else, it naturally triggers an instinct for them to do something for you in return, and in this particular scenario, the natural impulse will be that they want to understand you. Remember that unless they’ve also read this series, they probably won’t be as skillful as you at demonstrating their desire to understand, but it will be there. Listen to the things they say and watch how they behave for signs of their interest in understanding and then acknowledge it. Pretty soon you will foster a deeper connection and a deeper sense of understanding between the two of you. With that foundation, good communication will follow and from that good communication, amazing ideas will flow.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this three-part series on “Seeking First to Understand” and that you go right out and put these techniques to use in your day to day communications with people. Remember though, that like any techniques, your skill at using them will start lower and grow with practice. Sometimes, it’s helpful to have someone with no stake in the issue guide you through the conversation. If you need to have a difficult conversation with someone, and you feel like you could use a little help with that conversation, fill out the contact form and ask to schedule a discovery call. Here’s to your deeper understanding!


Mr. Meier is a shareholder with the Las Vegas Law firm of Holley, Driggs, Walch, Fine, Puzey, & Thompson. All engagements for services discussed on this site are contracted through the Holley Driggs firm.

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The Conscious Business Lawyer

Glenn Meier, Esq.

Conscious Business Lawyer

"I'm at my best," Glenn notes, "when I’m helping my clients make their business relationships work better. Sometimes that means helping them build the relationship from scratch and sometimes it means helping them restore a damaged relationship. Regardless of the entry point, I work with people to strengthen those relationships and design legal agreements that support them."

Mr. Meier is a shareholder with the Las Vegas Law firm of Holley, Driggs, Walch Fine, Puzey, & Thompson. All engagements for services discussed on this site are contracted through the Holley Driggs firm.

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