Do You Know What People Want?
Do you know what people want? It pays to know. It’s so simple, it more often than not gets completely overlooked. My son could see what Michelle, a little girl in his third-grade class, wanted on her birthday. He understood at an early age what people want. Regardless of the age, it’s what all people want.
Her birthday was a special day because it was the day she was allowed to bring a treat to school to share with her classmates. She was excited about handing out candy to each child.
My son came home from school that day visibly upset. When I asked what happened to cause such a long face, he blurted out, “I don’t like my teacher anymore.” Inquiring further as to why, he said, “Today was Michelle’s birthday and she brought candy to school to give to all the kids. The teacher had a pinata hung in the middle of the room and she said to Michelle, ‘Michelle, let’s put your candy in the pinata.’ But Michelle didn’t want to. But the teacher insisted, ‘Oh, come on, Michelle. Let’s put your candy in the pinata; it’ll be fun.’ And she took Michelle’s bag of candy and put it in the pinata. I looked at Michelle, and I could tell from her face that she wanted to cry. She didn’t want to put her candy in that stupid pinata. I don’t like my teacher anymore.”
I don’t care who you are. Hardened criminal or newborn baby. CEO or custodian. Family patriarch or youngest grandchild. All people have the same basic need. All want to be heard and appreciated. According to William James, Father of American Psychology, the deepest human craving is to be found acceptable.
How do we demonstrate acceptance?
We take the time to listen. It seems plain and simple, doesn’t it? Yet, not so simple. And why is that? Because most of us have never been taught to listen. We confuse hearing with listening. There are lots of things we hear, but do we truly understand the meaning of what is said? I think not. If we did, we’d find more productive and empathic ways of responding.
A friend says, “I’m not sure about my promotion. It’s a job I’m not familiar with and requires skills I’m not sure I have.” And how do we often respond? We say something like, “Oh, you won’t have any trouble. If I know you, you’ll have that job mastered in no time.”
Was that truly listening? No. Quite the opposite. It simply dismissed our friend’s concern in an attempt to encourage. Instead of allowing our friend the chance to be heard, able to express the full extent of their fear, we, in essence, cut off any conversation that might lead to our friend gaining a new perspective that could the allay fear.
If we had simply responded with, “You sound concerned to be moving to a job you haven’t mastered yet,” they could have confirmed our understanding or clarified. We could then follow up with a question to get them thinking clearly about expectations for their job. For instance, if they responded, “Yes, I am concerned,” we could then ask an open-ended question like, “What leads you to think they expect you to know everything right from the get-go?”
A conversation that keeps focused on understanding your friend’s concern, followed by questions that get them thinking about the validity of their concern, would help them to a get a more objective view of the situation. With greater objectivity, they might even begin thinking of possible steps to take to get up to speed faster.
What is the greatest benefit to you?
Listening for understanding opens the door to true transformation. Listening not only transforms the conversation, taking it to deeper levels of understanding, but transforms the relationship, taking it to high levels of trust between the two people.
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© 2018 Mary Jane Mapes All rights reserved.