The Art of Understanding

Several years ago, a friend recommended that I read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I bought the hard copy and read it with interest, sharing with my husband that the reason I wanted him to clean out the carport for my birthday instead of getting me anything was because one of my strongest love languages is tasks – doing things for me that I want done but haven’t yet completed. Yep – detail the garbage cans and cha-ching, anniversary celebration = complete!

Since I am 50 I have an excuse for forgetting things like where my keys are, if I’ve fed the fish and that I might have already read a book I just purchased. I have more than one copy of, well, let’s say at least three books…so it was no surprise to me that I had forgotten that I already owned a copy of The Five Love Languages when I bought it, again (albeit on Audible, so that almost doesn’t count since the media varied, right?). I enjoyed the listen and reminded my husband that our 27th anniversary was just around the corner and wasn’t it convenient that the deck could also use a good power wash.

This summer, I had the great privilege of visiting Italy with my 15 year-old daughter, Lilly. I imagined walking the city – strolling through museums hand-in-hand while we discussed the Rembrandts and basking in silent admiration of the frescos that adorned St. Croce – followed by a drink (Orangina for her and a glass of champagne for me) at the café on the square. A mom can dream.

As we left our AirBnB rental and headed down the ancient streets of Florence towards the Uffizi gallery, I thought of the book I’d just listened to and, wanting to use the wonderful one-on-one time with my daughter to really connect, said, “What would you really love to do today? What would make you happy?” I asked this question even though I already had a game plan. After all, I knew my choices would be just what she wanted.

Lilly said, “Anything you want as long as it’s not a museum or a church and does not involve a lot of walking. No museums. No churches. Do they have H&M in Florence and can we take a cab?” Uh-oh. I took a breath and sort of whispered, “I bought us tickets to St. Croce and the Uffizi gallery. One is a church and one is a, well, huge museum. But – how about a compromise?” Lilly and I talked it over and agreed we’d go St. Croce and the Uffizi but that we’d follow those cultural experiences up with some shopping – something I would probably never have suggested and something that was absolutely #1 on her list of most important things to do while in Florence. We would walk to everything and take a cab home at the end of the day. We compromised and the result was that we both got our needs met and felt like we were working with, not against, each other.

How many times have you thought you knew what your customer or co-worker wanted – what they needed to experience respect and appreciation – only to find your best efforts were not received as warmly as you might have planned? One of the keys to any great relationship is taking the time to ask questions. Customers know what they want but are not always given the opportunity to share. When we take the time to ask – rather than just guessing – delivering a quality solution becomes much easier. Deciding to ask, listen and understand is an art that we all can appreciate.

– Becky Sharpe, President & CEO

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