7 Habits: Habit 5 Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood

While the previous chapter discuss of having a win win mindset to found the basic fundamental of effective communication skills, now it time for us to get into the components of a good  communication.

The book states that communcation is the most important skill in life as no man is an island or being self sustainable. People need to interact with one another to get what they want.

Rule of Reciprocity: Give and You Shall Receive

One of human natural instinct or behavior is to take care of our own interest first. So when someone comes along and look into their interest first. They would usually repay this attention given to them. So to be understood, you first need to understand. Everyone has different needs and preference, without understanding them, there is no way you can influence them directly and effectively.

“Unless you understand me and my unique situation and feelings, you won’t know how to advise or counsel me. What you say is good and fine, but it doesn’t quite pertain to me”

-Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

To elaborate on this: No matter how well you spoke, the receiver may feel that it doesn’t apply to him/her – The mindset of “You are not me” or “Its easier said because it didn’t happened to you”. So to influence him/her successfully, you have to push his/her button[s] at the right places. Striking it where it matters to them – To know where are their buttons, you need to understand them.

By understanding first, it will allows you to response from a more complete perspective (from yours and the person you communicating) in a mutually beneficial way. At this point of time, the person you are communicating with has yet to understand your perspective thus he will be agreeing more with you as it would be obvious to him/her that you have taken his/her points into perspective.

Unless he/she is an expert communicator. It would be rather easy for you to take lead on the direction of the discussion so that the end result would be more of what you wanted.

How To Understand?

Unless you are an expert in reading body languages, The following information from wikipedia would be useful to you:

Communication is 55% Body (Visual) 38% Tone ( Vocal) and 7% Words (Verbal)

 However I would not really pay attention to those percentages as it is a generic guidelines that people will observe your behavior and voice more than hearing what exactly you are saying.

Listen To Understand, Not to Reply

In the book it talks about empathetic listening, which is to listen with complete attention to get into the speaker’s “world” (Paradigm, Mental Model, Mindset, Perspective, etc) intellectually and emotionally – Understanding how he/she think and how he/she feel.

With empathetic listening, we listen for feeling and meaning – the purpose and reason of what had been said in their perspective. This will also instill the confidence of the speaker to open up on his/her communication with you.

We should not listen with the intent to reply but to understand the message itself first. Because if we listen with the intent to reply, most probably we would have interrupt the speaker when we chanced upon the opportunity to give our opinion. We will also be in selective listening mode only waiting for our chance to speak.

In some communication book, this is known as suspending judgement. Remember when you are judging someone, you lose the power to fully understand them.

A few more pointers in creating a higher level of communication –

  • Keep an open mind at all time so that you are always ready to receive inputs and not to be ready to response until the speaker is ready to receive your response
  • Have the integrity and be comfortable in telling the truth. People don’t like to be lied to, and when they discovered they are being lied to, chances are they will never trust you fully ever.

4 Autobiographical Responses with Empathetic Listening

  1. Evaluate – Agree or Disagree
  2. Probe – Paraphrasing: Asking questions by using our own words
  3. Advise – Counselling based on our own experiences and thinking
  4. Interpret – Understanding motives and behavior

In the book, it gives dialogues examples to illustrate the responses.

4 Development Stages of Empathetic Listening

  1. Mimic Content (part of Active Listening or Reflective Listening) – Basically to repeat exactly what the speaker said to show that you paid attention to what they said.
  2. Rephrase the Content (Paraphrasing) – Interpret the speaker’s meaning in your own words to him/her.
  3. Reflect Feeling – Understanding the emotions of the speaker when he/she is communicating.
  4. Rephrase the Content & Reflect the Feeling – The combination of stage 2 & 3
“An emotional communication requires an emotional response, logical communication likewise”
– Max

When people communicate, they communicate their content(motive) & context (feelings/emotions). So to build rapport with them, you need to show that you understand their motive and feelings. This would build a trusting relationship for an open and higher level of communication – the way to become a soul mate.

Then To Be Understood (Effective Presentation)

Setting the foundation of the relationship / communication is important & should be as long as you are comfortable, but don’t stay in the foundation. – Results comes from action

Seeking to understand takes courage to starts. Present clearly, specifically, visually and most important contextually (In the context of a deep understanding of their paradigms and concerns) to increase the credibility of what you communicate.

A summary based on 3 principles – ethos, Pathos and Logos. Ethos (Your character) forms the basic foundation of a communication – presenting your ideas. Before your communication starts, the first impression, your track record, the trust people had in you would matter first – Why people should listen to you?

Next, establish relationship by building rapport with them emotionally and intellectually to be on the same “page” then presenting your ideas logically. – Whats their benefit? The sequence has to be in this way for an effective presentation to take place.

Effective Presentation & Communication

Closing Pointers

Things that are good in the long run are usually less prioritized as it takes effort and time and it lacks of urgency. But to be better you need to get it done.

In this chapter, there are a lot of dialogues which are conversation template that can be used in your life now. So I would like to leave you with this passage to strengthen your relationship with your special ones.

“I read this book about listening and empathy and i thought about my relationship with you. I realized I haven’t listened to you like I should. But I want to. Its hard for me. I may blow it at times, but I’m going to work at it. I really care about you and I want you to understand. I hope you’ll help me.”
– Stephen Covey, Affirming your motive

Recommended Reading

Previous Chapter: Win Win Thinking

Next Chapter: Time To Interact

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