Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood is the endowment of courage balanced with consideration.

Does it take courage and consideration to not be understood first? Think about it. Think about the problems you face. You tend to think, “You need to understand me, but you don’t understand. I understand you, but you don’t understand me. So let me tell you my story first, and then you can say what you want.” And the other person says, “Okay, I’ll try to understand.” But the whole time they’re “listening,” they’re preparing their reply. They are just pretending to listen, selective listening. When you show your home movies or tell some chapter of you autobiography “let me tell you my experience” the other person is tuned out unless he feels understood.

What happens when you truly listen to another person? The whole relationship is transformed: “Someone started listening to me and they seemed to savor my words. They didn’t agree or disagree, they just were listening and I felt as if they were seeing how I saw the world. And in that process, I found myself listening to myself. I started to feel a worth in myself.”

The root cause of almost all people problems is the basic communication problem people do not listen with empathy. They listen from within their autobiography. They lack the skill and attitude of empathy. They need approval; they lack courage. Within their frame of reference, they say, “What can I do to please that person. He has this high need for control. Wait a minute, I’m the manager in control. I didn’t come to listen I came to tell. When I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you.” The ability to listen first requires restraint, respect, and reverence. And the ability to make yourself understood requires courage and consideration. On the continuum, you go from fight and flight instincts to mature two-way communication where courage is balanced with consideration.

– Stephen Covey

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