Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood

Steven Covey, view in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, teaches us valuable lessons in life. I personally love Habit Number 5:
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
Communication is the most important skill in life. You spend years learning how to read and write, and years learning how to speak. But what about listening? What training have you had that enables you to listen so you really, deeply understand another human being? Probably none, right?

If you’re like most people, you probably seek first to be understood; you want to get your point across. And in doing so, you may ignore the other person completely, pretend that you’re listening, selectively hear only certain parts of the conversation or attentively focus on only the words being said, but miss the meaning entirely. So why does this happen? Because most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. You listen to yourself as you prepare in your mind what you are going to say, the questions you are going to ask, etc. You filter everything you hear through your life experiences, your frame of reference. You check what you hear against your autobiography and see how it measures up. And consequently, you decide prematurely what the other person means before he/she finishes communicating. Do any of the following sound familiar?

“Oh, I know just how you feel. I felt the same way.” “I had that same thing happen to me.” “Let me tell you what I did in a similar situation.”

Because you so often listen autobiographically, you tend to respond in one of four ways:
Evaluating: You judge and then either agree or disagree.
Probing: You ask questions from your own frame of reference.
Advising: You give counsel, advice, and solutions to problems.
Interpreting: You analyze others’ motives and behaviors based on your own experiences.

Listen to others, really listen. Try to understand why they are saying what they are saying. If you don’t find it to be your personal experience, ask them “why they feel the way they do about that?”

Recovery is different. We can learn from others, we can be instructive to others. But it takes both sides. Keep an open mind – the words you hear from the lips of others may be just those that your higher power wanted you to hear and you never know when or from whom you will hear them!.

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