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Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood


“I just don’t understand why they don’t listen!”

Have you ever had that thought? Do you have employees? Are you married? Do you have teenage children?

We can learn much from Stephen Covey’s 5th Habit (from the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People), “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood”. The reason that people do not listen and understand you is because you are not listening to them. You talk, explain, analyze, preach, propose, and offer advice and instruction, yet they do not listen and understand you because you do not understand them, and to understand them, you must listen to them before you will be understood.

If you will ask a great open ended question (Who, What, When, Where, Why) and then get present, engaged, and quietly listen to their response………….only for the purpose of understanding, not to reply, then ask another question related to their response and listen some more, and seek to understand them, and feel where they are, and see how they see you, and themselves, and the world, and then……….ask yet another question and listen for a real long time, without offering your wisdom or solutions, without your problem solving, just to UNDERSTAND AND LISTEN, and once you feel you understand, THEN get validation that you indeed DO understand them, and that you and they are convinced that you see things and understand the situation totally from their point of view, then and only then will you be ready to offer your perspective and be understood.

When you respect others by truly listening and understanding them, it opens the possibility for a real conversation and connection. What they will understand is that you really care and truly appreciate them.


Who knows? They might even ask you a question and seek your thoughts. Now wouldn’t that be an interesting response, that they truly would want to listen and understand you.



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