Stephen Covey wrote, “If I were to summarize in one sentence the single most important principle I have learned in the field of interpersonal relations, it would be this: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. This principle is the key to effective interpersonal communication.”
In my earlier post about Sean and Nicole and couple communication, “What, if anything, do you think Nicole was doing wrong?”
Nicole — like most people — wasn’t listening with the “intent to understand,” but had been listening with the “intent to reply.”
She hadn’t been trying to gain a deeper understanding of Sean. She filtered everything he said through her own experience, reading her autobiography into his life. As soon as Sean had started talking, she had already begun formulating a response. She hadn’t given him any space to really be in the relationship with her.
- She didn’t understand him because she wasn’t listening.
- She had been way too busy formulating her reply.
Use your powers of self-observation and take notice of your self-talk (what you’re thinking or saying to yourself) when others are talking.
- Are you silently evaluating the words of your friends and coworkers … while they’re still talking?
- If so, you’re probably evaluating his, too.
Get better at couple communication by practicing on your friends. Listen until you’re sure you understand the other person’s point of view. That is, wait until you’re sure you’ve heard the whole story before you offer your own thoughts and feelings.
To answer before listening—
that is folly and shame. (Proverbs 18:13)