Habits to Learn: Seek to Understand Before Being Understood

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It’s common for people to be in situations where they disagree with another person and feel like they just can’t see each other’s point of view.

Often, the problem in those situations is that no one is really listening.

To address this, one must step back and seek to understand before being understood. This lesson, however, is not an easy one.

There are a number of books that cover the idea, and this specific concept was presented in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Today, you will know more about understanding others effectively and how you can learn this entire book’s concepts easily on Blinkist, a book-summary platform.

The Importance of Understanding

Why is it so important to be able to understand other humans? Starting here is important because the concept of understanding must be, well, understood!

If you cannot understand someone’s ideas or a concept that applies to the world around you, it will be challenging to make good choices.

Choices and decision-making is rooted in an understanding of the cause, effect, and potential outcomes.

To understand all of these options, you must also understand the people around you and their involvement.

Taking time to effectively understand the other person is more important than many realize.

It is an active skill that one must work on, so how do you do it?

Seek to Understand Before Being Understood

This concept is covered by Stephen Covey in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

While it is a great concept for being more effective, it’s also an important concept for being a good person.

For some people, however, this might seem backward.

Why does it matter more to understand someone else before yourself? Let’s break it down.

Why You Need to Understand Others First

Covey suggests that it is more important to understand others first. But why is it that you should seek to understand before being understood?

Essentially, you want to ensure that at least one of the people involved in the conversation is truly listening to and actively trying to understand others.

The only way to guarantee this is by doing it yourself.

If you first focus on understanding others, you are ensuring that your communication is more effective than it would be otherwise.

People love to be heard, and they love to be properly understood.

When other people see that you are making an effort to understand them, they will turn around and do the same for you.

By simply taking the time to understand others, you set the stage for more open and productive interactions.

Everyone can hear others, but not everyone takes the time to actively listen.

This is a skill that needs practice, but the time it takes to learn how to be better at understanding will be worth the payoff.

seek to understand before being understood

How to Understand Others More Effectively

A lot of your ability to understand others is going to be rooted in the way that you listen to them.

When someone talks, are you really digesting what they are saying? Are you processing the information that you receive, or are you simply hearing it and responding out of habit?

You can become better at understanding by practicing three listening techniques:

1. Listen actively.

Fully focus on the speaker, and make sure to pay attention to both verbal and nonverbal cues.

As you are listening, it is good to encourage the speaker with reassuring phrases and nonverbal signals.

2. Clarify as needed.

When you aren’t sure that you understand something the speaker says or you want to learn more, ask non-judgemental, clarifying questions.

Saying things like, “I’m not quite sure I understand” or “What did you mean when you said X” can ensure that you are truly connecting.

3. Reflect what you hear.

Reflecting is when you mirror what someone just said by repeating it. Basically, this means to repeat things back to the speaker by paraphrasing what he said.

This technique shows others that you are listening and trying to process their worldview. In turn, it will help you to connect more effectively. 

By simply learning these listening techniques and beginning to employ them when talking with others, you will become more successful at truly understanding people.

And when you understand others, they will eventually begin to understand you, too.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Review

This is not the only useful technique that Stephen Covey presents in his book.

A brief 7 Habits of Highly Effective People review will give you a chance to see what other interesting ideas it offers.

This book presents seven different ideas about how you can be more successful in life by simply adjusting your approach to situations.

The idea of the seven principles is to help individuals become personally and professionally successful.

At their root, all of the principles are based around the idea that broadening your thinking will turn you into a better problem-solver (and a better business person).

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The seven principles included by Covey are:

  1. Be pro-active.
  2. Begin with an end in mind.
  3. Put first things first.
  4. Think win/win.
  5. Seek first to understand.
  6. Synergize.
  7. Renewal.

When presenting each of these ideas, Covey goes into detail about why they work, how you can implement them in your own life, and what kind of changes you can expect to see.

For him, these core values are essential for changing the progression of your daily life.

To understand more about how these values will apply to your life, you’ll need to check the book out for yourself!

Blinkist Can Help!

If you struggle to find time to read books like Covey’s, or you aren’t good at parsing out the main ideas, you might benefit from Blinkist.

Blinkist is a book-summary platform that has more than 4,000 summaries of popular nonfiction titles. These summaries are called Blinks.

Each summary, which takes less than 15 minutes to read, pull out the main ideas that you should be gaining from each book.

Through simply organized digests, you can gain the top insights from the book without having to read the whole thing.

This can be a lifesaver for busy people who want to explore concepts like those that Covey presents but do not have the time to do.

Understanding Is Key

From Blinkist and many other The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People reviews, you will find that the book has some great ideas.

For many people, the one that they found most applicable to their life was to seek to understand before being understood.

It can be hard to shift your perspective to focus on processing someone else’s ideas rather than explaining your own.

However, that shift can make a huge difference in the overall conversation.

Communication is important, and doing communication the right way can change your life.

Consider if learning how to listen to better understand others will revolutionize your life!

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