Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
Editor’s Note: This article is one in a series on the pillars of iLEAD’s educational philosophy and approach.
Communication is key, but if we lack understanding in our relationships, how can we ever hope to clearly communicate?
This month we are examining Habit #5: Seek First to Understand, Then Be Understood.
Many of us seek first to be understood. We want to get our point across, and in doing so, it’s easy to ignore the other person completely. We might pretend that we’re listening, selectively listen to certain parts of the conversation, or attentively focus on only the words being said. Doing so may mean we miss the meaning entirely. In doing this, we filter everything through our own life experiences and decide what someone means before they’ve even finished speaking.
Our listening tends to fall into four categories:
- Ignoring: We’re not listening at all.
- Pretending: We may say “uh-huh, right,” but we’re not really tuned in.
- Selective listening: We hear part of what the person says, but the rest of the time we’re distracted.
- Attentive listening: We’re actively listening and paying attention, but not taking our listening to the ultimate level — empathetic listening.
Dr. Stephen Covey defined empathetic listening as listening with the intent to truly understand. In order to really understand, we need to get inside another person’s frame of reference, and see the world from their point of view. Our listening also needs to be driven by an authentic desire to understand the other person and to build trust with them.
As part of the iLEAD educational model, we encourage learners to incorporate the following practices into their communication:
- I listen to other people’s ideas and feelings.
- I try to see things from their viewpoints.
- I listen to others without interrupting.
- I am confident in voicing my ideas.
- I look people in the eyes when talking.
When we listen with the intent to understand, instead of with only the intent to reply, we begin true communication and relationship-building. Seeking to understand takes kindness; seeking to be understood takes courage. Effective communication is a balance of the two.
For more information on the 7 Habits and other leadership resources, click here to visit the FranklinCovey website.
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