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listening to understandTell Me More About That

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” -Stephen R. Covey [Tweet this] | [Share on Facebook]

For more than 2,000 clients…

located in 49 states (I’m looking at you, Alaska!)…

and 18 different countries…

I’ve had the great honor of speaking with more than a million people at live events.

To ensure the message adheres to each of our client’s unique objectives and elevates not only their meeting but also the way the meeting carries them into their daily lives after, we do significant research. One aspect includes a pre-conference phone call where we discuss an extensive questionnaire they have completed for us ahead of time.

Some of the questions we ask of them focus on the tactical, like: How large is the meeting? Specific location? How much time do I have to speak?

But where we spend most of our time on the call is on strategic questions that help identify real objectives: What are the most pressing challenges or problems faced by members of your group? What value do they receive in attending this meeting? How do you measure the success of a meeting like this? And what’s the one thing you hope is amplified by bringing me into your meeting?

From car manufacturers to airline pilots, healthcare centers to fast-food restaurants, a dozen executives in a boardroom to 20,000 sales professionals in a stadium – the answers can vary dramatically.

Except for the answer to one question.

Question #10.

It’s the only one that has a consistent answer.

So, you ask, what’s the question, John? Here it is:

10. Are there any issues or topics that you want John to avoid during the program?

Can you guess what two answers are always shared?

That’s right, politics and religion.

Start Listening with the Intent to Understand

My friends, I get it.

No one wants to attend a mandatory sales meeting and have someone evangelize them. Fewer still desire to go to a conference and have someone on stage tell them why their political leanings are wrong.

And yet, the real “problem” with discussing these two topics is so much more complex.

The real problem is that we as individuals, organizations, communities and as a country refuse to even listen to someone else’s opinion. As soon as something is said, written or posted that we disagree with, we stop listening to learn.

At that point, we’re listening to fight, prove wrong, retaliate, win.

We’ve grown into a splintered society, huddling in our own little cliques, building walls around our own camps, hurling insults and judgements outward. We let them know they are with the wrong party, taking a stupid stance, foolish in their religious practices, sinful!

And yet, our calling as inspired leaders is to stand so strongly for what we believe, so sure of how right we are, and so confident in our beliefs that we are actually free to be radical and do something seldom seen these days: Listen.

And not just listen to respond, attack, persuade. But listen with the sole intent to broaden knowledge, connect with another and grow together.

Yes, it’s unquestionably important to know what you feel strongly about, what you stand for, and why.

But what’s missing are individuals desiring to listen to understand, connect on issues to actually solve problems and unite to ensure that tomorrow is even better than today.

Instead of pointing your finger, unfriending someone, or screaming back, try uncrossing your arms, opening your mind, and responding sincerely, “Tell me more about that.”

This is your day. Live Inspired.


I recently had the opportunity to listen and learn from an inspired leader. John Smith fell into an icy lake five years ago at age 14. He spent 15 minutes under water, trapped below the ice and once out, spent another 43 minutes without taking a breath. Miraculously, he is thriving today. John’s unbelievable story was featured in the hit movie Breakthrough and he recently joined us to share it on my Live Inspired Podcast. Listen here.

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