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"Seek first to understand, then to be understood."
-Stephen R. Covey
Seek first to understand, then to be understood can be defined as “having a frame of mind and heart that empathically listens to others first before seeking to be understood in all human interactions.”Stephen R. Covey defines this fifth habit in his bestselling book, "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" as the habit of empathic communication.
Communication is the most important skill that we will learn in life. There are four basic types of communication:
We spend years learning how to read, write and speak. But what about listening? If you’re like most people, you probably seek first to be understood. Most people want to get their point across. Generally, people are reactive, distracted and want to be 'right.'
When another person speaks, we’re usually “listening” at one of four levels:
What often happens is that we can ignore the other person completely, pretend that we are listening, selectively hear only certain parts of the conversation or attentively focus on only the words being said, but miss the meaning. This happens because most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. Rather than listening to others, we are listening internally to ourselves deciphering what to say next. We tend to filter everything we hear through our experiences and our own frame of reference. Consequently, we prematurely conclude what the other person means before they finish communicating.
Because we often listen based on our own experiences, we tend to respond in one of four ways:
Q: How can we become better empathic listeners?
A: Listen with an intent to understand
Some tips to 'seek to understand' people in communication:
Communication is a critical aspect of productive interpersonal relationships. When truly effective interdependent people communicate, they first try to understand the other person’s perspective before expressing their own. It takes time, practice and intentionality.
“What we are communicates far more eloquently than anything we say or do.”
-Stephen R. Covey
Brandon & Amanda