Editor’s Note: Seek to understand

January 12, 2017 -  By
Marisa Palmieri

Marisa Palmieri

When a small group of landscape industry communications pros gathered at the Las Vegas Convention Center in early December during the 2016 Irrigation Show, the “Fireside Chat” wasn’t meant to offer up New Year’s resolutions, but that’s what I took away.

The session “Is Anyone Listening?” was hosted by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association and sponsored by Ewing. It was presented by Cliff Woodbury, senior vice president of culture and engagement for Ewing. He offered an important reminder about the power of communication for all of us.

So what’s the resolution I walked away with? “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

Sound familiar? Woodbury shared this piece of wisdom as habit No. 5 from Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” It’s also a line from the Peace Prayer, otherwise known as the Prayer of St. Francis. It’s been quoted by people as diverse as Mother Teresa, Desmond Tutu and Bill Clinton, and it’s been adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and others.

You can’t deny that it’s good advice for those in the landscape industry, where some of the biggest obstacles include creating a positive culture, retaining and recruiting workers and meeting client expectations.

Covey says when leaders listen with empathy the results are a positive environment and effective problem solving. What’s not to like about that?

There are five types of listening, according to Covey, and only the final one is truly listening.

Are you guilty of any of these?

  • Ignoring—not listening;
  • Pretending—acting like you’re listening;
  • Selective listening—hearing what you want to hear;
  • Attentive listening—trying to understand the words someone is saying, but not necessarily the meaning; and
  • Empathic listening—listening with intent to understand the other person’s frame of reference.

Remember, empathic listening is not the same as showing sympathy or agreeing with the person. It’s about comprehending his or her point of view. That’s it.

Effective ways to achieve empathic listening—and resisting your instinct to prepare a response in your mind—include any or all of these tactics: repeating what the other person said; rephrasing the content; and reflecting the person’s feelings.

As Covey says, you don’t want to fall into the trap of evaluating (judging), probing (asking questions from your own frame of reference), advising (offering advice or solutions) or interpreting (analyzing others’ motives based on your experiences).

“Successful listening hinges on our intent,” Woodbury says. If your goal is to understand others above getting your point across, the people you interact with will know.

“What if your customers felt like they were truly understood before they were pitched or sold?” he asked.

Why don’t you resolve to find out in 2017? I am.

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About the Author:

Marisa Palmieri is an experienced Green Industry editor who's won numerous awards for her coverage of the landscape and golf course markets from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA), the Press Club of Cleveland and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). In 2007, ASBPE named her a Young Leader. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, cum laude, from Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism.

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