If someone doesn’t feel understood, they will not listen and will do what they can to feel understood until they feel understood. Or until they give up on you understanding them, in which case you’ve lost your credibility and ability to influence them.
Want to break up with someone? Intentionally misunderstand them. They’ll lose patience with you, feel increasingly frustrated, and want to spend increasingly less time with you.
If somebody feels understood, they will share more about what they feel understood about. And what do people feel understood about? Their emotions and motivations—in other words, what you lead them with. If you want to lead, influence, or motivate someone, making them feel understood will lead them to tell you more and more how to lead them more effectively. They’ll want you to lead them. And the more deeply you understand them, the more they’ll want you to lead them.
The challenge is getting someone to share with you deeper motivations. People protect those things because they sense that other people knowing deep motivations makes them vulnerable. My post, “How to make someone feel understood,” covers that, as does my seminar.
Want to make someone want to spend time with you? Understand them. Want to make them want to open up with you? Understand them more. Want them to care more about you? Support them for what they open up to you about. It’s like magic. Just don’t confuse understanding them with making them feel understood.
Understanding and having them feel understood is separate. Understanding happens in your head. Many people mistakenly think that if they understand someone that helps them lead them. But what’s in someone else’s head doesn’t motivate them. What’s in their head does—which is where the feeling of being understood happens.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book