Habit 5: Understand, Understood

“How Do I Listen Effectively?”  Synopsis:  This is Covey’s habit of communication – of mutual understanding – and it’s extremely powerful.  Covey helps to explain this in his simple analogy of ‘diagnose before you prescribe’.  This habit is simple and effective, and essential for developing and maintaining positive relationships in all aspects of life.

7 Habits Overview post HERE.
Habit 1 Overview post HERE.
Habit 2 Overview post HERE.
Habit 3 Overview post HERE.
Habit 4 Overview post HERE.

If you are ready to challenge yourself to achieve better effectiveness in your personal and interpersonal life – please read on.

Habit 5. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.  This habit is based on the principle that diagnosis must precede prescription.  Understanding comes through listening.  By seeking to understand others first, before expressing your views, you become a person whom others trust.

Principles of Empathic Communication

Empathic Listening is reflecting what the other person is feeling and saying it back in your own words.  Use Empathic Listening when:

  • Emotion is high
  • The other person does not feel understood
  • You do not understand the other person
  • Trust is low

In their attempts to listen, people fall prey to listening from their own frame of reference.  As a result, they never achieve true understanding.  The list below identifies specific responses to avoid when listening to others.

Empathic Listening means you forget about yourself and concentrate all your energies on being with the other person in real time.  The list below identifies specific responses to use when you seek first to understand others.

This is probably the habit that I’m the worst at because I often fill in the blanks unnecessarily when talking with people, which is an incredible no-no.  Instead, an effective communicator should really try to understand as much information as possible about the situation before providing a solution.

Case Study

Practice listening emphatically in each of the following scenarios.  Use the phrases above to help you.  Remember, reflect what the other person is feeling and say it back in your own words.

  1. A customer asks why he must repeat his complaint over and over.
  2. A co-worker tells you about a struggle she is having with her teenage son.
  3. Your friend tells you that she just lost her job.
  4. A co-worker strongly disagrees with your views on a work-related issue.

What did I get out of this principle?  Don’t stab at solutions until the full story is told.  If someone comes to you with a situation, hear them out; often it requires the full story, and some questions, before the correct plan of action is revealed.  This means listening and attempting to see the situation from the speaker’s perspective, not just your own.

Next time I will introduce Habit 6: Synergize.

Until then…


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