My elementary school has chosen the book The 7 Habits of Happy Kids by Sean Covey as the book we are going to promote school-wide this year. As part of that effort, our school t-shirts this year look like a baseball jersey with a “7” on the back filled in with the seven habits. Here's a picture...
Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood.
She told me she stared at that sentence and decided to approach her husband in a different way when she got home. She was going to listen to him first and really try to understand his point of view and then explain hers and hope he would do the same for her. I wished her luck and that was that, but her story stuck with me.
I have been so busy creating and researching lessons to teach my students this important habit, I had not really thought about how it applied to my own life. In the book Mr. Covey writes, “In school we’re taught how to read, write, and speak. But we’re not taught how to listen, which is the most important communication skill of all. Listening with our ears isn’t good enough, because less than 10 percent of communication is contained in the words we use. The rest comes from body language and the tone and feeling reflected in our voice. What a great blessing it would be if we could teach our kids how to listen while they’re young!” I could not agree more Mr. Covey!
In my profession, listening to others is an important skill, so I do a pretty good job of it at work. But, my personal life? That’s another story. I have found myself in a couple of situations lately where I was far from being a good listener. I think most of us would agree we spend much more times seeking to be understood than we do to understand. It’s so important to us to get our point across and make sure people know our view about something, the skill of listening has fallen to the wayside. We get caught up in the moment of defending ourselves or making sure our opinion is heard and it’s only later we sit back and wish we had really taken the time to LISTEN and UNDERSTAND. We miss valuable opportunities to form deeper relationships when our only focus is to be understood.
Sadly, listening has almost become obsolete in this high-tech, electronic world where most of our communication is through social media and texting. People don’t talk anymore….they do everything by text and social media. They fight over Twitter, break up over text, make up over text, and share some of the best and worst news of their life over Facebook. Social media has some amazing benefits. I am able to keep up with friends in a way I never could without it and I love being able to hear my friends’ good (and sometimes bad!) news. But if this is the only way we communicate, it becomes a problem. If less than 10 percent of our communication is made up of the words we say (or type!), imagine what we are missing! Since there is no tone or feeling reflected over text or social media, we make up our own. This can be dangerous.
I’m committed to be a better listener. I’m committed to seeking FIRST to understand before I expect to be understood. If I expect my elementary-aged students to do, it has to start with me. Imagine a world of faithful listeners where everyone’s first priority is seeking to understand others first…how powerful would that be!?! In the words of Rachel Naomi Remen, “The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention...A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.” Let’s all try it today! Be an attentive and active listener with the intent to understand, not just reply, and let me know how it goes!