If we all take the time to realize that we have a bias, first and foremost, it is easier to move beyond it. By realizing that we all have a point of view and that our point of view does not necessarily help us understand someone else’s, we are on the road to empathy. Before we can solve people’s issues, we need to understand them. We need to actively listen and understand that their viewpoint may be vastly different from our own. . . and that is just fine.
Take the time to understand not only what someone thinks, believes or needs but why they think, believe or need it. If you understand the why behind the what, you can help them solve their issues. The why is the underlying issue that needs to be resolved. People can tell you that they need their coffee at 86 degrees farenheit, but unless you understand why they need it that temperature, you may not really pay the correct attention to the detail. What if instead, you took the time to ask why they needed it at that temperature and found it was because they had throat cancer and having it too hot would cause them pain and distress as they tried to drink it. Do you think you would pay more attention then?
The more questions you ask, that are open ended and designed to elicit response, the more opportunity you have to understand the other person’s point of view. It is about asking questions that allow you to get to the crux of the issue, getting them to articulate what is really important to them, what they need or what problems that they have. Taking the time to ask pointed questions, listening actively, responding back to insure you understand their viewpoint and then questioning again, allows you the opportunity to not only help them in the short term effectively, but to build long term trust.