The fifth from 7 habits by Stephen Covey Summary
Habit #5: Seek First to Understand…Then to be Understood
The fifth habit opens the floodgates of heart-to-heart family living. Before we seek to influence we must first seek to understand – ie. diagnose before prescribing.
There are two primary causes of misunderstand in a relationship: we interpret the same event differently and we define the same words differently.
Our different natures and backgrounds condition us to do this. If we could just realise that there are differences between people, we could learn to take it into consideration and adjust our expectations accordingly. We base our judgments on our expectations, so it is important that we clarify expectations. So much of our interaction with people is based on pre-judice or pre-judgment. We interpret all the data we receive in a way that confirms our judgment.
There are two aspects to this habit.
First, Seeking to understand is crucial because when people are yelling at each other, they basically want to be understood, but they are so emotionally charged and disrespectful of each other that they react defensiveness and with more anger – a vicious cycle that feeds on itself. It takes so much effort to repair the damage that is done through yelling at each other, that it would have been much easier to practise habit #5 from the beginning – exercising enough self-control and patience to listen first.
Probably the most important thing that we can do for our family is to create a warm, caring, supportive and encouraging environment – in other words, a nurturing culture. This is difficult to do because we carry so much negative baggage from our past and negative emotions in the present.
Not seeking to understand leads to judgment, rejection and manipulation, while seeking to understand leads to understanding, acceptance and participation. When one person becomes angry and loses control it wounds, intimidates, threatens and overpowers the other and they tend to fight back which compounds the problem, or they give in with a win-lose attitude. To change this cycle it we must go deep within ourselves and resolve to change the way we interact with others in the family. We need to make up our minds to acknowledge negative tendencies, overcome them and apologise to others for them. We need to learn how to express our anger in more productive ways and we must decide not to be offended by others. As we prioritise family we realise that the family is too important to let offenses keep members from talking to each other. Interdependence is hard work. In the short-run it is easier to live independently within the family, but the real joys of family are lost with independent living.
To really listen to others involves listening with empathy. There are five levels of listening:
(2) pretend listening;
(3) selective listening;
(4) attentive listening; and
(5) empathic listening.
The first four are listening from within your own frame of reference, whereas the fifth, empathic listening is listening from within the other person's frame of reference. Our role should be that of a faithful translator – to translate and communicate back to the other person in new words the essential meaning of their communication with us. This means that before we take a position on what they said, we feedback the essence of what we have heard. This is to ensure that we really understand them. It is helpful to ask questions to check for understanding.
Second, involves seeking to be understood. – sharing the way we see the world. When we really understand people, it is much easier to communicate with them in a way in which they will understand. A key part of seeking to be understood is giving feedback – caring enough to confront. When we do this we must:
(1) ensure the feedback is helpful to the person;
(2) understand the person and speak their language;
(3) separate the person from the behaviour;
(4) be sensitive and patient regarding their blind spots; and
(5) use "I" messages.
The real fruit of this habit, as with all the others, is when it becomes a consistent practise in our lives, rather than using it sporadically.
Follow the next habits next week… Blessed.. Enjoy!! Let's Build our family 🙂