Monday, December 22, 2008

"Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood." says Sean Covey

When I read this chapter on seeking to understand, then to be understood, I had to definitely stop in my tracks. It opens up with a powerful statement...

"Before I can walk in another's shoes. I must first remove my own shoes."

I hadn't heard it quite like this before although I support this wholeheartedly. I will even take it a step further. No one wears the same size shoe, lol. Even though we may essentially wear the size of someone else's shoe, like a 10 or size 6 1/2, we are all different. Our feet are shaped differently and are different sizes even if by one centimeter or millimeter. Well, where am I going with this? Stay with me.

Have you had a friend who just simply will not let you get a word out when you are telling them a story that is important to you. You just want to stop telling the story altogether. I remember telling someone a story and they totally started to interrupt me and I never finished. I have also been in situations where I have cut people off. Boy, I got mine back, (smile). I actually talk a lot, but try to listen as much as possible. So, I am also learning from this lesson that I am giving to you.

We have often heard from our friends, "I know how you feel." "I know exactly what you are going through."

What if we don't know? We often generalize feelings so much that we think that our feelings can match someone else's feelings. Well, this is hard. Just as no two finger prints are alike, the same goes for feelings. It would be great to feel the same as someone else, but that would make us all the same. We would not be different. So, even if you remove your shoes, it would be difficult to put someone else's on, especially when it does not fit. Food for thought, huh?

So, let's accept that people are different. What I do agree with Covey on is that it is definitely better to listen first, rather than talk first. So, listen first, talk second. I agree. It gives you a great perspective on where people are in their feelings, etc.

Let's get you some tools going.

Covey lists five poor listening styles.

1) Spacing out

2) Pretend listening

3) Selective listening

4) Word listening

5) Self-centered listening

Spacing out - someone's talking and you are just out of it. You are in "la-la" land.

Pretend listening - making small comments or gestures showing that you are listening, but almost don't have a clue as to the conversation. The other person thinks you are listening.

Selective listening - only clue into what you want to hear. Sometimes you take the conversation in a whole new direction right in the middle of their sentence.

Word listening - we do not look or listen to the gestures and body language when someone else is talking. We simply take words out of context. We do not pair the two. You can learn a lot from gestures and body language.

Self-centered listening - it's all about your view point. You rarely get the other person's point.

Covey says, stop mimicking and start mirroring.

Mimicking is - Repeating words

Using the same words

Cold or indifferent

However, mirroring is - repeating meaning

Using your own words

Warm and caring

Well, what can we do better to listen? This is so important when we are trying to be there for our friends, family and others.

Eye contact is certainly something that I do a lot of. When I feel my eyes drifting, I immediately focus again. I find myself in situations where someone is going on and on, but I refocus and try to let them complete their thought by interjecting with a follow-up question. The question has to be related though. That way, they know you are listening and they get to talk again.

Take a look at other people's interactions. You will see yourself more and more as you observe others. You will see the things that you simply despise and you will see some things you do well in terms of communication.

Evaluate your listening skills by using the five poor listening skills.

I remember telling my family that I was molested when I was 6. They believed me and that was the greatest thing for me. My grandmother was more hurt than I was. That validated me or let's say, I felt validated. I do not want to know where I could have been if I had not felt validated. That would have been a double scar for me. So, take some time to listen to folks. They may have something to tell that you want to hear, but you have to be listening in order to do that.

Coming up! A young man fights internally for understanding of his sister's murder. He still hurts today, but he is courageous and wants to talk about it. His interview and more when we come back on Wednesday.

Thanks for tuning in.

Til next time.

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