Saturday, November 15, 2008

Say What?

In my further reading of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey, Habit 5: Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood stands out in my mind. The gravity of this habit is clear; everyone wants to be understood. Most everyone desires someone to listen to his or her problems. Before you can fix another's problems, you must first listen and understand that person's feelings. Covey says that the problem with listening is that most people do not know how to listen. Common poor listening styles include spacing out when others speak, pretending to listen by commenting at pauses in the conversation, selectively listening to only part of the conversation, listening to words without noticing tone or body language, and listening in a self-centered manner.

Genuine listening requires a bit more effort. The first step is to listen with your eyes, heart, and ears. Only 7% of communication comes from the words spoken. Body language makes up 53%, and the tone in which words delivered account for the remaining 40%. You must listen to what a person is not saying to fully understand what they mean. Second, you should stand in the other person's shoes. People often think conversations are competitions. Since everyone has different backgrounds and points of view, more than one opinion in a situation can be correct. The third step in being a genuine listener is to practice mirroring, or repeating back in your own words what the other person is saying and feeling. The second part of this habit, seeking to be understood is harder. It takes courage to share your feelings with others. Feedback given correctly can also help others understand you and can be a deposit in the RBA, or relationship bank account. This habit made me wonder how much I have been missing in conversations by not taking the time to genuinely listen.

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