The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.Peter Drucker
When she walked into my office, she was clearly nervous. We had worked together for six months. In the next five minutes, she shared a very personal medical condition, how the treatment would take her out of work, and her concerns about her job and her health. There were tears.
I heard the words – and knew the next step was to leverage the policies we had in place to help all of our people get the same level of support and organizational compassion.
Somewhere in those five minutes, I heard some other unspoken messages:
- I want to be a mom more than anything
- I am scared
- I love this job
- I trust you to help me Scott, that is why I am sharing this
Within the unspoken words is the space where empathy happens, where we get to really understand what matters to people, and where the passions and fears exist that help us truly know someone.
The next time you have a conversation, listen for the unspoken messages. What do you notice? This is the real practice of honest listening, and it takes putting them first.