Think about this — When communicating with others about a problem do you Seek First to Understand, or must you Make Your Point First?
Many years ago I read the book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey. The book has since gone on to be a bestseller. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Seven_Habits_of_Highly_Effective_People
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People are:
1 – Be Proactive – taking initiative; responsibility for your own life; behavior based on conscious choice, based on values (rather than a product of their conditions, based on feeling)
2 – Begin with the End in Mind – start with a clear understanding of your destination, know where you’re going
3 – Put First Things First – putting things that matter most first
4 – Think Win/Win – seek mutual benefit in all human interactions
5 – Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood – emphatic communication
6 – Synergize – cooperation with others
7 – Sharpen the Saw – balanced self-renewal
A couple of the habits really stuck with me, like: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood, Begin with the End in Mind, and Sharpen the Saw. Since reading the book, and as I get older, I find I’ve become more understanding of people/situations. I try to understand why people do what they do. I make a conscious effort to try to see things from the other person’s perspective. I haven’t perfected this skill, but I’m still working at it. That doesn’t mean that I agree with them, or would do things the way they do. It’s just that I sometimes imagine being the other person. For instance, I might say, “If I was fearful, insecure, or whatever, I might behave the same way if I was the other person.” Remember the saying that goes something like, “Don’t judge another man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.” It’s taking what you know about that person, trying to get inside their head. Sometimes you just have to believe that “it’s not about you.” We all have people in our lives that are close to us and need our understanding. And we need understanding from others as well. This means you will not immediately jump to conclusions. You will control yourself and not immediately fly off the handle in anger, or pout because your feelings are hurt. Try to really listen to what the other person has to say. Hear them out before you respond. Then state your side, or your point of view. This is especially helpful when dealing with your significant other. Why? Your significant other is the one person who really knows how to push your buttons. This will make for better communication and can help you remain calmer. This is not to say that you will never be angry or upset again — just that maybe you won’t react in a way that you’ll later regret. You’ll think before you speak. You won’t be so reactionary. You won’t be so quick to say or do things you wish you could take back. And you won’t waste your valuable time in some long, drawn out emotional funk. Call it relationship damage control. Take a few moments and think about your communication style. Do you seek first to understand, or to be understood first? Below are some links to videos and other info that talks more in-depth about the seven habits.
Intro to Seven Habits
For a more in-depth description of the book/seven habits: