“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
― Stephen R. Covey
One of the core skills of Authentic Relating is Getting Someone’s World. Although virtually all of us share the natural capacities to do this, not everyone cultivates these skills. Typically, in conversation, we focus our attention more on what we are going to say in reply to what the other person is saying, instead of on getting their world. Developing this requires practice. By consciously focusing attention on the other person’s world, we can develop this capacity to a highly skillful degree. When you do, you’ll create deep and profound connections with others as well as a reliable capability at creating mutual understanding.
Getting someone’s world begins with a basic capacity most all of us share. This is our ability to recognize that other people are having experiences—sensations, thoughts, intentions, emotions, etc.
Curiosity is the next ingredient. Being curious about the experience of the other person is a vital part of getting their world. This curiosity can arise from a desire to understand someone—such as what they believe or their intentions. This curiosity can also arise from a desire to feel close or connected to someone by feeling some of their feelings along with them. This curiosity is what gives us the energy to try and get someone’s world.
Often this curiosity gives rise to asking a question that you are genuinely curious to know the answer to. You ask this question out loud as an expression of this curiosity— “I’m curious about….” Then, you will likely get a response—something about their world.
(It’s possible that your partner will respond dishonestly. In the moment it’s not always easy to tell. Getting their world requires some degree of trusting that they are speaking honestly. The more you practice getting their world, the more confidence you’ll have in your ability to sort out what is more honest and genuine from what is less.)
Then you check to see if you are getting them accurately. Say to them, what you believe you understood from their response, for example, “I heard you say…” This is often referred to as Active Listening because rather than just hearing their words, you are actively sharing back your understanding with the speaker.
Then they will reply to let you know how you are getting their world. If you understood them accurately, you can follow up to understand them further. If you didn’t, then you’ll have the opportunity to follow up and get a more accurate understanding. You can then choose to follow up with another inquiry about their world. So long as you are both willing to continue along these lines, you can repeat this cycle again and again, getting more and more of their world each time.
Along the way you’re likely to enjoy the satisfaction of understanding what the world is like from their perspective (sometimes called Cognitive Empathy), and you might find yourself surprised when what you thought you knew about them turns out to be off-base.
You’re also likely to appreciate a sense of connection and resonance when you start tuning into the emotional dimension of their world (sometimes called Emotional Empathy).
They are also likely to enjoy these experiences as well. Consider a time you had the pleasure of being on the receiving end of someone who expressed genuine curiosity about your world in this way and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
When you get someone’s world with a high degree of skill, you’ll get a deep sense of what their world is like as they open up to you more and more. You’ll develop a sense of compassion, regard, goodwill, and care for their wellbeing. And you’ll enjoy your increasing appreciation for the aspects of the human experience we all share.
“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”
— Bryant H. McGill
“Compassion is the ultimate and most meaningful embodiment of emotional maturity. It is through compassion that a person achieves the highest peak and deepest reach in his or her search for self-fulfillment.”
— Arthur Jersild
Michael Porcelli is committed to people cultivating more realness in their relationships both personally and professionally. He’s played a key role developing a world-class team of facilitators and Course Leaders with The Integral Center and AuthenticWorld. Whether it’s taking people into deep interpersonal encounters in the moment, crafting a training curriculum, or facilitating a fast-paced business meeting, you’ll find him friendly, down-to-earth, and probably ready geek-out at the drop of a hat.