Friday, March 7, 2014

Habit 5 - Seek First to Understand...Then to be Understood

This is a part of my Introduction to Covey's 7 Habits series.
"No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care" ―  Theodore Roosevelt

Empathic Communication 

Like any good doctor, diagnose before you prescribeWe learn how to read, write and speak - but what about listening?
Image from a blog by ksa
Most people listen with the intent to reply. They have two modes: 'speak' and 'prepare to speak'. Even when we do listen, our basic instinct is to apply what people tell us on our own experience and biography. "oh, I know exactly what you mean!". When we do that we've stopped hearing. Empathic listening is about understanding others from their frame of reference:
"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” ― Harper LeeTo Kill a Mockingbird

Levels of Listening

Try to identify at what level you listen to someone - at home or at work:

  1. Ignore or pretend to listen 
  2. Selective listening (scanning for key words of your interest)
  3. Attentive - focus on the words
  4. Empathic - listen to what's being said, and the underlying emotions

Empathy is about understanding emotionally. Don't confuse Empathy with Sympathy. Sympathy implies agreement and judgement.

Emotional Bank Accounts

Covey uses the term "emotional bank account" to describe the ever changing level of trust between two people. The very process of empathic listening is an Emotional Deposit - it fulfills a basic need of being understood, appreciated, affirmed. This is building up the ability, trust and good will to work together (interdependence).

Empathy is Risky and Hard - It's for True Pros

Risky because you really open up to be influenced. You put aside your own agenda and seek to understand.
Hard - it is easier to draw on "what worked for me".
It's the mark of professionals - A doctor (diagnoses before prescribing), A salesman (Solutions, not products).
We tend to evaluate, probe, advise and interpret from our frame of reference. 

To understand we need the combination of: 

  • a desire to understand
  • strength of character
  • positive emotional bank account
  • Emphatic Listening Skill

Steps to develop the skill:

  1. Mimic content you hear, reflect. Show you heard and pay attention
  2. Rephrase what you hear (apply thinking)
  3. Reflect feeling ("you're feeling...")
  4. Rephrase and reflect feeling - build trust to open up

Apply it whenever it gets emotional. Help the speaker reflect on his words, rephrase, change their mind..

...Then, seek to be Understood

Covey defines Maturity as the balance between courage and consideration. After applying consideration by truly listening, it's time to courageously communicate what you have to say. 
Ethos, Pathos and Logos are the building blocks of an effective presentation:

  • Ethos: your credibility, emotional bank account
  • Pathos: emotional alignment, empathy
  • Logos: logic and reasoning

This means, aiming at the context of your audience, at their frame of reference. By doing this you might learn and change the content of your presentation (that was the "risk" when you listen - you might just learn something!)

And here is the long term benefit, and why you may want to apply this with your family: 
The more you understand someone - the more you appreciate them and experience meaningful connection.

Related reading

Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg
McCarthy's core protocols: Investigate

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