These words are incredible. They are simple but powerful.
They can be used in most every situation and setting.
They need to be at the ready when talking with friends, colleagues, classmates, strangers, spouse, and family.
I use them often as a pastor. I find them helpful in the midst of conflict resolution, staff interactions, marriage counseling, decision making, teaching, and leading the church.
I use them as a husband and father. Countless situations in life and marriage and parenting call for them.
I use them because they are simple but powerful. What are these four simple words?
HELP ME TO UNDERSTAND
That’s it? Yep. Like most adages, though, it’s the power latent within this phrase that can change our leadership.
So, why are these words so beneficial and what can you expect them to do for you?
* Breed clarity.
We don’t want to listen. Most conversation resemble two monologues rather than dialogue (a classic example from Jerry MaGuire – click here – hit stop at 1:10 to avoid cuss). Am I right? I can be guilty of this in my marriage. This phrase, “help me to understand” (HMTU), encourages me to actively listen and gives my wife a chance to clarify her words.
* Delay a decision.
Have you been there? They share one sentence composed of 8 words that is going to change your business, organization, or student group forever…and they need a decision NOW. HMTU slows them down and gives me a chance to hear more so I can make an informed decision.
* Foster the relationship.
When you say HMTU, it shows the other person that you care. You’re not blowing them off (though you might initially think their idea is ludicrous). You’re not ending the conversation. Rather, you’re inviting them to tell you more. It shows care and care can be hard to come by. And it’s important they know this because of the next two.
* Highlight reasons for differing opinions.
I use these words often when someone shares an opinion I don’t hold. Rather, than dismiss them because I disagree (which can be tempting to save time), I want to hear why they believe what they believe. How did they come to that opinion? Is it well thought through? Has it been tested? Do they even know why they believe it? I once asked a lady to share her spiritual journey with me. As she shared, it became clear to me (and, maybe, even her) that she didn’t have great answers to the question of why she believed what she believed.
* Hone in on disagreements.
HMTU can help you avoid conflicts by breeding clarity (#1) and fostering relationships (#2). But, there will be times when someone holds a different opinion (#3) and neither of you are going to change. HMTU permits me to hone in on what exactly we disagree with. Taken away are excuses that they weren’t heard out, or that they weren’t understood, or that they weren’t cared for. And what can come to the forefront is what we truly disagree about.
It’s the classic iceberg analogy. 10% of life is visible. This gets most of the attention because it’s easy to see. 90% is unseen. This is where so much of the disagreement can stem. It’s usually the 90% that makes clear why the 10% is as it is. So, take time to get beneath the water line.
* Increase future partnership.
My aim with HMTU is to create an environment conducive to relational development in the long term. I want them to share more so I can see their thinking. I want them to develop a mind for leadership as I take them through my thinking and why I disagree. Though I may end up disagreeing on a particular issue, I want that person to know that my door is always open. I want to be their advocate. I want to see them thrive in leadership.
Help me to understand. Four simple words, but powerful!
What now? What should I do and why?
* Subscribe to justcor. What does that have to do with HMTU? My hope is that juscor can be founded upon relationships and conversations for mutual benefit. Subscribing ensures you’ll be at the table when we cycle back to this topic. And if you’ve subscribed now and if you’ve tried using HMTU, you’ll be ready then to share how it’s helped you.
* Use HMTU! Start today. Use it at school, home, work, grocery store, in all types of settings and scenarios.
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QUESTION: What are your thoughts? Do you use HMTU or something like it? Please, share a comment below!