Seek first to understand...

Seek first to understand, then to be understood. - Stephen R. Covey

In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen Covey writes about this habit:

We typically seek first to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. They are either speaking or preparing to speak...

A father once told me, "I can't understand my kid. He just won't listen to me at all."

"Let me restate what you just said," I replied. "You don't understand your son because he won't listen to you?"

"That's right," he replied.

"Let me try again," I said, "You don't understand your son because he won't listen to you?"

"That's what I said," he impatiently replied.

"I thought that to understand another person, you needed to listen to him, I suggested.

"Oh!" he said. There was a long pause. "Oh!" he said again, as the light began to dawn. "Oh, yeah! But I do understand him. I know what he's going through. I went through the same thing myself. I guess what I don't understand is why he won't listen to me."

This man didn't have the vaguest idea of what was really going on inside his boy's head...

That's the same with so many of us... We want to be understood. Our conversations become collective monologues and we never really understand what's going on inside another person...."

- From "Habit 5" of Stephen Covey's book

Mr. Covey recommends empathic listening and "diagnose before you prescribe" as solutions to this problem.

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