skip to Main Content

How to really understand another person’s perspective

In a coaching conversation with my client Leanna this week, she told me that she was struggling with Patrick, one of her direct reports (of course no real names are used!!)

Leanna had given Patrick feedback that he needed to change his approach to a project…but nothing had changed!

Often, when a person is struggling to change, you likely THINK that you know why they are not following through.

But to be honest, more often than not, you typically have no idea what’s really going on.

You are likely looking at the situation only from your own perspective.

You are likely making assumptions about the situation, again, from your own perspective.

In this type of situation, I like to quote Stephen Covey who says,

“Seek first to understand before being understood.”

Since we typically form opinions based on our own experiences, this Covey quote reminds us to really seek to understand another person’s perspective and experiences.

Most people only half listen.

We listen to respond.

We don’t listen to understand.

So, I told Leanna to write a list of open-ended questions that she needed to ask Patrick in order to understand his point of view.

But these questions had to be the right ones!! They had to be questions that were curious and not judgemental.

Leanna could not ask a question like “Why are you not doing this?”. This would create an antagonistic situation. Patrick would likely get defensive and maybe even shut down instead of responding openly.

Rather, we discussed a question like “What problems are you having with this task?”

This non-judgemental question allowed Leanna to “seek first to understand” what Patrick was struggling with before she could start to solve the problem.

Where are you making assumptions about your team?

What can you do to slow down and really understand another person’s perspective in any situation?

Vanessa Judelman

Vanessa Judelman is an author, coach, and sought-after leadership expert. Over the past 20 years, she has created a proven formula to develop results-oriented leaders who feel empowered and confident in their job. Vanessa is the author of Mastering Leadership: What It Takes to Lead in Today’s Fast-Paced World. Order your copy here.

Worried that you don’t have the right tools (or enough tools) to lead properly?

Let’s change that immediately.
Sign up to receive one practical tool or strategy every week.

Back To Top