I can honestly say that there are not too many people who have had a true influence (some fleeting) on my life but Stephen Covey is one of them. His practical way of looking at making life better has always struck a chord with me and after having a chance to see him live a few years ago, I have tried to implement his teachings into my life work and relationships. I first read The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People years ago and have returned to it and its various spin-offs many times. While we must always look at the general self-help genre with a touch of healthy skepticism, Covey can be considered one of the masters. I have often used the Indian Talking Stick method in couples therapy with great effect.
Of all the habits that he advocates, my favorite is the one regarding communication, something we can never learn enough about. Covey’s fifth habit, seek first to understand, then to be understood promotes the benefits of excellent communication skills and especially, listening. He states clearly that in most relationships, troubles occur due to the lack of listening skills on one or both sides. He likens this to medical treatment where we are so quick to rush in and opinionate and prescribe before we have all the information at hand. This is the foundation that Covey builds his fifth habit on “diagnose before you prescribe”, a simple and effective method of increasing empathy in relationships, whether business or personal.
As Covey states:
“Communication is the most important skill in life. You spend years learning how to read and write, and years learning how to speak. But what about listening? What training have you had that enables you to listen so you really, deeply understand another human being? Probably none, right?
If you’re like most people, you probably seek first to be understood; you want to get your point across. And in doing so, you may ignore the other person completely, pretend that you’re listening, selectively hear only certain parts of the conversation or attentively focus on only the words being said, but miss the meaning entirely. So why does this happen? Because most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. You listen to yourself as you prepare in your mind what you are going to say, the questions you are going to ask, etc. You filter everything you hear through your life experiences, your frame of reference. You check what you hear against your autobiography and see how it measures up. And consequently, you decide prematurely what the other person means before he/she finishes communicating. similar situation.”
Read the rest via Communication means effective listening | Dr Nicholas Jenner PsyD MA.