Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

“[We are] paid to solve problems and make decisions; that’s why we have such a tendency to rush in, to fix things. But we often fail to take the time to diagnose – to really, deeply understand the problem first. The highly effective [person] seeks first to understand, then to be understood.” – Stephen Covey

In this seventh post in a series of nine, we’ll examine Covey’s fifth habit – seek first to understand, then to be understood.

One of the most effective questions we ask when we’re networking is: what is your biggest communications challenge? We find that this question gets people talking the most.

The next step for us is to engage in empathic listening. This allows us to truly understand what the person is saying. It helps us see the world through his or her eyes, rather than through our own frame of reference.

Covey mentions in his book that, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” For example, “I know exactly how you feel. I went through the very same thing.”

The next time you sit down with a new client, colleague, friend or family member who is coming to you with a problem, be careful not to rush to judgment, probe too much or quickly recommend solutions.

Instead, take a step back, reflect what that person is telling you and try to echo that person’s feelings. These are the signs of a truly empathic listener.

– Lisa Soard

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