Imagine you want a product and you know a store that sells it. You go to the store.
Now imagine the moment you walk in, a salesperson walks up to you with the product you want—the same brand, model, color, and everything, even at a great price—and says, “I know what you want. Here’s what you’re looking for.”
It would make you suspicious, wouldn’t it?
Despite them offering what you wanted, you’d feel motivated to wonder how they knew and to look for reasons not to buy it, the opposite of their interest. You might not even buy it.
Since they offered it, you know the salesperson wants you to buy it, so it’s in their interests but you can’t help wondering if it’s in your interests to buy it. Or if it’s against your interests.
I use this story in my seminars to illustrate the difference between understanding someone and making them feel understood. The salesperson may understand you completely and know how to improve your life, but their understanding doesn’t motivate you.
Someone else understanding you happens in their head. You feeling understood happens in your head and your heart. And your motivations come from your head and heart, not someone else’s. That other person may influence you, but only indirectly. The less you feel understood, the more skeptical and suspicious you’ll be.
You generally need to understand someone to make them feel understood, so trying to understand someone is a good start, but it’s not enough. Stopping there could undermine your credibility and influence, as with the overeager salesperson in my story.
Taking the next step to making the other person feel understood helps you lead. It takes different skills and beliefs, including, usually, putting their interests before yours. I’ve written about how to do it elsewhere. I just wanted to share this model for the pitfall of just understanding.
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