Seek first to Understand, then to be Understood

Communication is the most important skill in life

People usually are trying so hard to be understood, so they totally forget to just listen. Even if they do listen, they are preparing for speaking, they listen with the intend to reply. The conversations between people feels more like monologues. Don’t rush things up, don’t try to fix it or give an immediate advice. First, completely understand the problem.

If you want to interact with people effectively, if you want to influence people – you need to understand them. You have to build the skill of empathetic listening and you have to gain trust. 

There are 4 levels of listening:

  1. Ignoring
  2. Pretending
  3. Selective Listening
  4. Autobiographical Listening
  5. Empathic Listening

When we listen autobiographically we:

  1. Evaluate (agree or disagree)
  2. Probe (asking questions from our own frame of reference);
  3. Advice (give advice based on our own experiences);
  4. Interpret (we try to explain people’s feeling and behaviors based on our own experiences);

Listening empathetically means seeking first to understand, to see the world the other person sees it, to understand how he/she feels. You need to understand what is really happening in another  person’s head and heart. It’s a communication of souls.

There are 3 stages of listening empathetically:

  1. Mimic. It is also called active or reflective listening. You simply listen to the words the other person says and you repeat them.
  2. Rephrase. Same as previous, but you rephrase the content.
  3. Reflect Feelings. You’re not paying as much attention to what is being said, but to the feelings of other person. You rephrase the content and adding the feelings. Put to the side your own experiences and try to understand the real issue.

People want to be understood, people want to be heard. No matter how much time time it takes to truly listen and understand another person, it will bring greater returns. The person will feel relieved and deeply understood. You will build trust.

Every person’s world perception is different. You might be living through the family-centered glasses; I might be living through the money or self-centered glasses. We both lived this way for years and totally convinced that its the only right way to live. When we begin interacting, working with other people that have different perspectives on life, we face misunderstanding.

Here is how using the approach of empathetic listening can help you to develop trust and understanding when negotiating or trying to make a Win/Win deal:

  1. Go over the material (contract, agreement, proposal etc.).
  2. Rephrase the content.
  3. Reflect the feelings. Make sure you understand what’s important to the other side.
  4. Explain concerns and feelings from your side.
  5. Come up with the solution that will benefit both sides.

Seeking first to understand also makes you a good presenter. There are three key parts to making an effective presentation:

  1.  Ethos. The trust and appreciation people have towards you. It’s your character and relationships with people.
  2. Pathos. The way you make other people feel.
  3. Logos. Logic and reasoning behind the information you present.

You need to learn to present your ideas clearly, specifically, visually and in the context of other people’s objectives, feelings, concerns. Put away your own autobiography, experience and seek to understand other people first, see the life through each other’s lenses.  

References:

COVEY, S. R. (2004). The 7 habits of highly effective people: restoring the character ethic. New York, Free Press. 

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