Understanding is Deeper than Knowledge

By MC Bell | gargoyle@flagler.edu

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

-Stephen R. Covey

Fumbling with some papers on the table in my living room while trying not to knock over my hot chocolate, something caught my attention as a few of my roommates started discussing a quote that one of them heard that day. She read, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

I never understood when people say they have a favorite quote that encompasses what they truly believe. Maybe, I never really understood the purpose of a quote until now. Some quotes are appropriate for certain situations like breakups, fall-outs with friends or motivation, but I never thought to have a quote that fit a recurring trend I now noticed in my life.

After putting some thought into what I heard, a memory came to me of something my dad always used to say when we argued: “I don’t listen to hear myself talk.” Usually by this time he is trying to tell me our arguments have purpose but as usual, my stubbornness kicks in and I fail to realize what he really is trying to say. I never tried to listen to understand what lesson he was trying to get across. Instead, I listened in order to come up with the best rebuttal possible.

This quote does not just define the way a person argues; it explains their actions. It explains the reason why someone would feel the need respond to an accusation or argument. Are they listening in order to express their opinion or to hear themselves talk? Are they attempting to find a common ground with another person or are only concerned with proving that other person wrong?

I became a witness to this about a month ago when a group of my friends and I were fixing the banners on a fence. I mentioned another way to put zip ties on that may help them from not coming off as easily when one of my friends, without hesitation, shut down the idea that it could not be done any other way except the way she wanted to do it.

The idea that people could be missing out on great opportunities presented by others just because they don’t believe it is right is terrifying. What if we took the time to understand where others are coming from? What if we took the time to gain a perspective other than your own? Even if you hear something you don’t like, it doesn’t mean it can’t help you in formulating a more well-rounded opinion of your own perspective.

The more we listen to understand and gather information, the more connected we are as humans, and the more connected we are as humans, the stronger we are as a race.

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