Hey Jordan — I related to this a bit and wanted to share a few thoughts:
- I was a very competitive soccer player my entire life and agree that it does help to program an attitude of winning and wanting to be the best. However, I think it does so in a way that sharply illuminates and teaches the enormous importance, value, and potential of synergy. Synergy means that the whole is greater than the sum of parts; it means that the relationship which parts have to each other is not only a part in and of itself, but also the most catalytic, the most empowering, the most unifying, and the most exciting part. The essence of synergy is to value differences — to respect them, to build on strengths, to compensate for weaknesses. Soccer, for me, in part due to the fact that I was the smallest person and defender on the field, taught me to both recognize and more importantly operate in a way that would help unleash the value/greatness in others, the team as a whole, and myself.
- Building off of that and the essence of your post. I believe the single most important principle to effective interpersonal relations and communications is to seek first to understand, than be understood. As you eluded to, most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. They’re either speaking or preparing to speak and filtering everything through their own paradigms, often thinking they are “facts” and questioning the mental competence of anyone who “can’t see the facts”. Empathetic listening is listenting with the intent to understand and to look through the other person’s frame of reference, their paradigm. It is not about agreeing with someone but rather to fully, deeply understand that person intellectually and emotionally; you listen for feeling, meaning, behavior. Paradoxically, in order to have influence, you have to be influenced yourself, which happens when you truly listen empathetically. When you do this you have more accurate information to work with, can present your ideas in the context of other people’s paradigms, and you build emotional bank accounts with others as well as give them the psycological air they need. When we really, deeply understand eachother, we open the door to crative solutions and third alternatives. Our differnces are no longer stumbling blocks to communication and progress. Instead they become stepping stones to synergy, whether it be on the soccer field, a group project, or anything else.
I just finished the book 7 habits of highly effective people, which focuses a lot on this subject, so went off on a bit of tangent, but hope it was helpful/interesting. Highly recommend that book — seems like it would be up your alley.