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many talk but few listen

The Importance of Understanding

Posted on | April 21, 2012 | No Comments

Understanding works two ways. I am still haunted by the memory of talking to an American lady whom I had never met before. She listened politely, then told me – with a slight degree of embarrassment – “I’m very sorry but I hardly understood one word you were saying…!” Ooops!

That was many moons ago – and I have learned to internationalise my speech since then. We need to speak well to be understood properly.

The other side of understanding is equally, if not more important. It is more subtle. It is that slap in the face one gets when told “Yes, but you don’t understand me!” Ouch! We like to think that we understand others when perhaps we don’t. Understanding others takes effort and time – but the bottom line is that it is all important. As a listener it is painful to think that others are not hearing us.
As a communicator we do well to sometimes admit we don’t understand another’s situation. As a broadcaster friend once said on-air to a listener, “Your mother is your mother, and my mother is my mother. I cannot enter into your situation. I don’t understand.” That takes guts. But it represents honesty and integrity. On the surface it might suggest weakness and inadequacy, while in reality it reflects strength and great courage. When we don’t have the answers it is better to say so.
Communication is circular – let’s not forget it!

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