The older I get, the more I realize that there are few certainties in life. No, this isn’t one of those philosophical posts where I relate some newfound wisdom as if I’m the first one to discover it – I’m going somewhere practical with this.

I deal not only with several systems of my own, but as you may know I work in an advisory role with several large (and small) clients in a few states in the Pacific Northwest. I find that the work I do in my systems helps me talk with the clients, and vice-versa. And I’ve been working with technology and data systems for a really long time.

All of those things hold a hidden danger – yes, I have been able to learn a lot of things over the years. But the danger is in my thinking that I know everything – because I most certainly do not. I try to keep that in mind at all times.

The worst place this can insert itself is when I begin to hear a problem, and automatically formulate an answer. “Ah yes,” I think, “this is problem number 234. Here’s the answer.” I patiently nod my head while the other person talks, but I’m not really listening – I’m waiting for my turn to talk!

So I work hard not to do this. I try and take notes while the other person talks, listen closely, and ask a lot of questions. This actually surprises some folks – they are so used to an “expert” spouting off the answer before they even ask the complete question that they sometimes think I don’t know the answer, or don’t understand. But in the end, I’m able to save myself embarrassment and the client frustration by listening carefully.

So that’s the practical tip for today - “seek first to understand, then to be understood”. It even works with computer professionals!