“If I were to summarize in one sentence the single most important principle I have learned in the field of interpersonal relations, it would be this:  Seek first to understand and then be understood. This principle is key to interpersonal communication.”  Steven Covey Daily Reflections for Highly Effective People.

Understanding is so important.  You may not have to walk a mile in someone’s shoes, however gaining awareness of where they are coming from will give perspective on where they are coming from.  Recently I was having a conversation with a person who was in the armed forces and just understanding what they had gone through in combat situations put a lot of perspective on the comments I would not necessarily have agreed with.  Nevertheless, understanding his perspective brought new insight to my thinking and then I was able to focus my comments about the topic we were discussing within the paradigm of where he was coming from.  A lot more effective way of getting my point across.

At the end of the day, listening is power as you gain information, empathy and trust by listening and truly understanding before focusing on getting your point across.