The late Dr. Stephen Covey synthesized the common patterns in the leaders he studied and worked with in his 1989 best-seller, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
At the core of his message is the belief that the way we see the world is entirely based on our own perceptions. In order to change any given situation, we must change ourselves. And, in order to change ourselves, we must be able to change our perceptions.
Put simply, in the context of this crisis:
In order to change/improve the state of things during this crisis, we must change/improve ourselves first.
In order to change/improve ourselves, we must change/improve our perceptions.
“The way we see the problem is the problem.”
To undergo a paradigm shift and upgrade ourselves fundamentally, we must go beyond the surface level and alter our behavior for the long-term.
This is where the habits (7) come in:
- Be Proactive
- Begin with the End in Mind
- Put First Things First
- Think Win-Win
- Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
- Sharpen the Saw
- Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
Before we can offer advice, suggest solutions, or effectively influence a person in any way, we must seek to deeply understand them and their perspective through empathic listening.
Say you go to the optometrist and tell him that you’ve been having trouble seeing clearly, and he takes his glasses, hands them to you and says, “Here, try these – they’ve been working for me for years!” You put them on, but they only make the problem worse (they’re not your prescription). What are the chances you’d go back to that optometrist?
Often, we will do this in our everyday interactions with family, friends, and customers. We prescribe a solution before we diagnose the problem – we don’t seek to first deeply understand the problem.
To truly understand the problem, we must listen a deeper level.
A person, your customer, can sense when you just want to drive your agenda and are not keying in on what’s going on in their world. This can shut people down and prevent them from opening up, trusting, and buying.
Most people listen with the intent to only reply, not to understand first. That is, at any given moment, they’re speaking or preparing to speak again.
Covey calls this listening autobiographically – or in other words, with our own perspective as our frame of reference. This leads us to commonly respond in one of four ways:
- Evaluate: Agree or disagree with what is said.
- Probe: Ask questions from our own frame of reference
- Advise: Give counsel based on our own experience
- Interpret: Try to figure out the person’s motives and behavior based on our own motives and behavior
“You’ve spent years of your life learning how to read and write, years learning how to speak. But what about listening?”
Replacing these types of responses with empathic listening is what dramatically improves our ability to communicate with and influence another person.
Next time you speak to someone, what are the emotions being communicated that are not necessarily coming through words alone?
What is the true problem?
Drive the conversation using only questions.