Seeking to Understand

So it’s been almost a month since we began the new school year, and for all of us I’m sure it’s felt exciting and incredibly busy and challenging and in many ways, super rewarding. We’ve had a great start as a team, and honestly I’m thrilled with how we’ve set ourselves up for success moving forward. For me personally however, coming to a new school in a new country, the learning curve has been steep, and the amount of information that I’ve had to process has been staggering. From trying to get my head around the culture, to figuring out all of the personal and group dynamics, to understanding the expectations of the community, and learning about the many, many strengths of our school (and areas for growth), it’s left me with a lot on my mind.

One of the things that I’ve been trying to do over the last several weeks to help sort through all of this has been to just simply listen…really, truly listen…and to seek to understand without bias or judgment. This strategy has been helpful for sure, but I have to say, it’s much harder than it sounds. True active listening is a skill that needs to be constantly worked on, and my recent transition has helped me to reconnect with the power of this intentional approach to all my interactions. I’ve caught myself on many occasions fighting the urge to interrupt, and desperate to chime in before someone has finished their thought, and I’ve noticed that I’ve been putting together my rebuttal or response without even pausing to process what someone else is trying to communicate. Active listening is tricky, and I think that we’re all guilty of listening with an intent to reply, instead of with an intent to understand (See Quote below).

In my experience, miscommunications and misunderstandings are often related to a simple lack of active and intentional listening, and I’ve certainly been guilty of this over the years…rushing to judgement without really taking the time to unpack the true intention behind someone else’s thoughts or opinions or feedback. It’s easy to take things personally and to jump to conclusions and to rush to judgement without first trying to understand another person’s point of view. I’ve been working hard on my active listening skills over the last few weeks, and I think it’s helped me in part to transition successfully.

I’m going to continue to work on this strategy in the months to come, and I want to challenge the rest of you to do the same. Watch yourself this week in meetings and in conversations and take note of how well you are really listening to another person. Are you interrupting, are you pausing to reflect, are you asking clarifying questions, are you seeking to understand? If not, then try to do better moving forward…I think this is something that all of us can get better at, and if we do, we’ll find that ultimately we’ll be communicating more effectively, and with more positive outcomes…let’s really listen to each other this year, and approach every interaction with an intent to understand. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.


Quote of the Week…

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply

– Stephen R. Covey


Related Articles – 

Hear What People are Really Saying

Listening to Understand

Tips for Effective Listening

Become a Better Listener

Listen Well – An Active Exercise


Interesting TED Talks –

Julian Treasure

Stanley McChrystal


Funny Clips (Listening) –

Everybody Loves Raymond

The Big Bang Theory

The Office

One thought on “Seeking to Understand”

  1. Hi Dan, Nice article! Listening to understand is such an important skill and always challenging to do at times. But for people to work together, it really is fundamental we practice and improve our ability to listen to understand. I think this follows closely with be able to be compassionate to others. Thank you for sharing. Greg Z

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