In addition to asking reflective questions to improve one’s effectiveness, listening also helps.
Specifically, in order to understand the other person’s problem, you not only need to ask the right questions, you need to listen to the response.
Such was the case with a farmer and his horse, dog, and wagon full of grain traveling along the highway. They were struck head-on by a car. The incident caused the farmer severe injuries.
When the case came to court, the lawyer defending the man driving the car asked the farmer, “Isn’t it true that immediately after the accident a passer-by came over to you and asked how you felt?”
“Yes, I remember that,” replied the farmer.
“And didn’t you tell him that you never felt better in your life?” asked the lawyer.
The farmer said, “I guess I did.” The defense lawyer said, “No further questions.”
On cross-examination, the farmer’s attorney asked, “Will you please tell the jury the circumstances in which you made that response?”
The farmer said, “Immediately after the accident, my horse had two broken legs and was neighing and kicking. The passer-by who came along was the deputy sheriff. He put his revolver to my horse’s ear and shot him dead. Then he went over to my dog who had a broken back and was yelping. He put his gun to my dog’s ear and shot him dead. Then he came over to me and asked, ‘How do you feel?’ I said I never felt better in my life.”
Until the lawyers and the jurors listened to the farmer’s personal plight, until they understood his perception of the entire situation, they wouldn’t be able make an appropriate judgment.
Too often, complete understanding is never achieved because we have not listened to the other person’s entire story.