Habit 5: Seek First to Understand

“But you just don’t understand what I’m trying to say!”
“You’re not hearing me!” 
“You just don’t get it!”

How many times have you heard or said these statements of frustration? A lot, I’m sure, as have I. It’s hard work keeping a relationship of any kind on the right side of things. Most conflicts occur out of a lack of clear, effective communication. Today’s HABIT is all about seeking to UNDERSTAND the other person and then seeking to be understood.

This is much more than letting the other person speak first. In any discussion, let’s agree that there is always ample room to misunderstand. In fact, it’s like we’re hardwired TO MISunderstand and must work very hard to find our way back to understanding. With that said, there’s a way to skip the misunderstandings altogether. This phrasing usually works for me…

“So, please correct me if I’m wrong. What I hear you saying is…”

…and then restate what you think you heard.

When you take a moment to check what you think you heard another say, you give each of you the opportunity to have the message clearly communicated and understood. But what if that doesn’t happen? What if misunderstandings keep piling up without resolution? The Grudgekeeper rears his ugly head and people walk around with frowns, not talking, feeling icky inside. SEEK TO UNDERSTAND. This phrasing usually works for me…

“I can tell  something is bothering you. Can we sit down somewhere and talk about it? If I’ve done something, I like to know and understand. If it involves someone or something else, I’d like to help.”

… then I sit back and…….. LISTEN.

Listening is crucial to understanding. Look earnestly at the person speaking. Face them.  Let them know you  are invested in hearing and understanding what they have to say. Check for understanding throughout. Use that phrasing from up above… “What I hear you saying is…” When that other person sees how invested you are in understanding them, they will wind up doing the same for you in return. Well, maybe not at first, but they will have begun to appreciate you on a whole new level. they will begin to open up and listen, really listen to you, as well. You’ll find it difficult to listen, to keep yourself from interrupting with a response, but it’s so worth it.