Launch Leadership Development is continuing the study of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey

So far, we have covered the first four habits. Habits 1-3 build a strong foundation for independence.

Habit #1 Be Proactive

Habit #2 Begin with the End in Mind

Habit #3 Put First Things First

Habits 4-6 focus on building interdependence.

Habit #4 Think Win/win

Today we are focusing on Habit #5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood by exploring these suggestions:

  • Listen, reflect back and ask the right questions
  • Understand before giving advice

This habit sounds easier to practice than it really is, my friend. In fact, it is likely not anything we haven’t heard before, yet so few heed the advice.

 The next time you are having a conversation with someone, note your response time and the other person’s body language. See if you are putting the following recommendations into practice:

To understand someone, you must:

  • Listen to them. We all see the world differently based on our own experiences, values and beliefs. To understand their point of view, we must listen to understand, not listen to reply.
  •  Reflect back Before giving advice or judging, reflect back the speaker’s emotions and summarize what you believe was their main point. This is the starting place for understanding.
  • Ask the right questions. Asking thoughtful questions helps you to put yourself in their shoes and understand their perspective. It also builds trust because the other person feels truly heard when you ask good questions.

Hold off giving advice or judging until you truly understand the situation.

  • Your advice is naturally structured according to your experiences, values, and beliefs. When you understand their frame of reference, you are better able to meet their needs.
  • No one wants advice quickly blurted out before they feel heard. Remember the rule of being effective with people, not efficient? Advice quickly given can make the other person feel they are not validated, and you are ready to move on with the conversation. Your advice may likely not even fit the situation if you do not truly understand.
  • It is often more important to the person to feel understood first than it is to have a solution to the problem.  People sometimes need the emotional release of expressing their thoughts/feelings/frustrations/dreams and what better gift can you give to someone than patiently and happily listening to them?

Practicing Habit #5 will improve your relationships in all areas, whether family, friends, or coworkers. It is worth inspecting your listening skills.

-Jan Jones

For more on Habit 5, check out this video and my past blog on listening!