Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then To Be Understood

By Laura-Lee McKeown 

 

Wow that seems simple but not a habit we always find easy to put into place. Why is that? Is it our pride and/or desire to be validated? Is it our inability to be vulnerable and honest with others? Is it our own desire to be heard overshadowing the need to listen? Well, yes; those are
definitely some of the reasons. What I do know for sure is the 5th habit, Seek First to Understand, Then To Be Understood, is easier to do once you have worked through Stephen Coveys first 4 habits (Be proactive, Begin with the End in Mind, Put first things first & Think Win/Win) from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

 

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then To Be Understood

 

One technique I have learned in my desire to understand is to repeat the following: “What I heard you say was …” Not only does this statement allow me to determine whether what I heard was accurate or not, it hints to the other person that I am doing my very best to understand their request or point of view. Sometimes I am right when I repeat back what I heard and sometimes I am not. It is a great technique to use in business as it allows all parties an opportunity to hear back their words, get clear on expectations and understanding. Why is this simple habit not easy to put into place? Well, active listening is difficult, but without it, communication and understanding are almost impossible. Seeking understanding is, in Covey’s words, “critical”; it demonstrates that you value the other person, that you affirm their position. And that just makes good partnerships in business. Share your struggles or celebrations in using active listening to understand! I'd love to hear how it has gone for you.