Habit 5 – Seek First to Understand

This is probably the hardest habit for most people… and I am no exception.

Habit 5 is all about empathic listening and understanding. It’s about being in the moment with people so that you are not simply waiting for your turn to talk and explain or defend or fix. It means subjugating the ego and putting someone else first, even if only for a few minutes.

Oh… is that all?

I read this chapter of Seven Habits (Amazon Affiliate Link) weeks ago but have kept mum because I wanted to put it to practice before before daring to speak. Or write as the case may be. Like most people, I often multi-task while listening to others; I hear what they say while silently seeking solutions from my autobiographical database.

In other words: Not Listening.

Obviously, I am no expert at listening but I am an expert at challenging myself and others. Since reading this chapter, I have applied Covey’s principles. It is a powerful tool in interviews and professional networking but it has made long-standing interpersonal conflicts all the more frustrating. It would seem many people are only interested in being heard…

But that’s what subjugating the ego is all about: realizing that most people will not or do not want to listen to you in return, no matter how much empathy you offer.

C’est la vie!

In the interest of spreading this challenge, please ask yourself: When was the last time you set aside your mental chatter to truly absorb what someone else is saying? Or set aside your own autobiography to revel in another person’s unique experience? Or even just taken a moment to consider that people are having vastly different experiences that shape entirely different viewpoints than your own?

Most importantly… When was the last time you kept listening to someone even though you knew they would never return the favor?

Discussion of the remaining habits can be found here.