Seek first to understand. I read chapter 28 to see where this week’s adventure was going to take us. Then I moved on to Chapter 29, “Become a Better Listener” and thought to myself (and because I’m the navigator and captain of this adventure) that chapter 29 should come before chapter 28. So let’s move on, then we’ll move back or forward…whatever!
But, before we jump ahead, I’m really going to go off course, but trust me, I have my reasons. Before we can Seek First to Understand, let’s go all the way back to chapter 12: Let Other’s be “Right” Most of the Time. What I have been able to capture from this chapter is that we need to become better managers of our egos and our dialogue. We can’t always be right, have our way, or have the last say. We learned that there is give and take and that others may have differing opinions and it’s okay to let them be “right”, most of the time. In other words, validating another person’s feelings, opinions and values will make them less defensive, create an open dialogue and become the glue that cements a relationship. An open dialogue and exchange of ideas requires becoming better listeners!
Now nod your head and say “capisco” (Italian for I understand) I bet you didn’t know that you would get a lesson in Italian today!
On to Chapter 29 and becoming a better listener. I will let our author speak now, so listen up!
Effective listening is more than simply avoiding the bad habit of interrupting others while they are speaking or finishing their sentences. (Chapter 7) It’s being content to listen to the entire thought of someone rather than waiting impatiently for your chance to respond.
- Richard Carlson
He continues to make the point that we often treat communication as if it were a race without time gaps between the conclusion of the sentence of the person speaking and the beginning of our own sentence. Often we are firing back our response before the other person has completed their thought. (GUILTY as charged Dr. Carlson!)
He then concludes…
Not only will becoming a better listener make you a more patient person, it will also enhance the quality of your relationships. Everyone loves to talk to someone who truly listens to what they are saying.
Now we are ready to “seek first to understand” or first, seek to understand.
Steven Covey, Steven Covey, ah yes! I remember reading his book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” waaay back when I was a branch manager for a temporary employment agency. Obviously I wanted to be a highly effective business woman, but I’m terrible at sticking with something until it becomes a habit. (Thus my hobby blogging) In this chapter, Dr. Carlson takes his que from his mentor, Steven Covey, to emphasize using this shortcut to become a more content and more effective person.
So let’s practice this. First listen (chapter 29). Let the person with whom you are conversing finish their sentence and or thought (chapter 7). Now use this piece of information that they just shared with you and take a nanosecond to understand where they are coming from. Wait…wait. Okay, now it’s your turn.
One good technique that I learned from my days in sales, was to repeat back to the person what they had just said. Example: “So, Mr. Marsh, if I understand you correctly, the most important thing to you in doing business with a new vendor, is customer service?”
Like a parrot, paraphrasing is a simple technique that gets heads nodding and important issues (to the other person) validated! Also, if you haven’t understood correctly, then that creates an opportunity to correct any misinformation and so on, the dialogue continues.
Likewise, if you try to second guess a person, or assume that you know what they are going to say, or how they feel, then you have not sought first to understand.
To summarize this chapter, Dr. Carlson states:
Seeking first to understand isn’t about who’s right or wrong; it is a philosophy of effective communication. When you practice this method you’ll notice that the people you communicate with will feel listened to, heard, and understood (validate- my word). This will translate into better, more loving relationships.
I used the symbol for the “talking feather” this week (chp. 7) ) to emphasize the importance of letting others have their turn.
THIS WEEKS ADVENTURE ASSIGNMENT
Today’s post was extra long, but it served as a review, a preview and a combination of the philosophy and techniques that we have been building on. Whew…We certainly have accomplished a lot with these two chapters! For this week I suggest seeking out the person with whom you have the greatest difficulty communicating with. Practice your listening skills, validating their point of view and opening up the lines of communication. My hope is that you thoughtfully consider their point of view, before your own, and create an atmosphere where you can speak without criticizing, blaming or impatiently waiting to spew out what you have to say. Practice the “parrot technique” of paraphrasing so that you truly understand their point of view. Take the time and invest the time in those you love! Seek first…to understand.
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Once your curiosity is satisfied, and are ready to begin, then move to the first post on May 1st.