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.







5 Comments Add yours

  1. Debbie Talbot says:

    Thanks Deena, I totally agree with you about not hearing what someone else is saying. I have found that sometimes when upset people hear something totally different then what you are actually saying. Thanks for giving a polite way of making sure both people are getting what is being said.

    1. deenaremiel says:

      You’re welcome, Debbie. Dealing with all sorts of people everyday, I found these habits to help me navigate my world in a much more positive way. I’m happier, healthier, and enjoy sharing with others. 🙂

  2. Judy says:

    This is fantastic with people who are reasonable. Unfortunately, I have a few too many with whom this simply does not work. I’d repeat back what they said; they’d say the opposite; I’d repeat back that, and they would say what they’d said the first time. It’s important to go into the discussion being willing to listen and being willing to accept that the other person may not want to resolve the issue because they have a different agenda than understanding. Just a thought.

    1. deenaremiel says:

      Oh, Judy, I have come across people JUST like that, too! *sighs* Yes, it’s at that point, when you recognize that they really weren’t interested in fixing anything, just causing more drama, that you say to yourself, I’ve done what I could. I feel good about the way I conducted myself in the discussion. I cannot change the other person, only the way I react to him or her. And you can walk away knowing that you conducted yourself in a way that you are proud of.

  3. deenaremiel says:

    Reblogged this on Deena Remiel's Place and commented:

    An oldie, but a GOODIE! Improve your communication skills and you’ll find a more peaceful workplace and home.

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