Effective communication plays a major role in the success of any organization. People normally spend too much time on reading and writing but don’t give much attention to listening, which is undoubtedly the key factor.

Listening provides the platform to understand what other people want rather than focusing only on what we want. The main philosophy behind the habit 5 seek first to understand then to be understood of Stephen Covey revolves around it because it helps the decision-making process.

Generally, when we listen, we try to think about what we want to say during the entire listening process because we presume that the other person ponders the way we do. Or, maybe we want to understand, but we lack the necessary skills required to comprehend how differently other people use to think.

So, let’s talk about the first part, which is how to understand others the right way.

“You can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”

Dr. Covey addresses this issue by recommending three critical things:

1 - Develop the Pure Desire to Understand

If you listen to people with pure aspiration, then you will be completely astonished to see how instantly they open up because they know that you are giving them complete attention.

2 - Reinforce Our Own Character

Character strength means becoming aware of your own wishes and favoritisms so that you can avoid them and be on the receiving end.

3 - Create an Emotional Bank Account

When you create the feeling of deeply understood, then there is a strong possibility to have an emotional link to them. It also helps to eliminate the barriers of misunderstanding and maximizes the chances of gaining more trust.

Communication comprises four basic types:

• Reading

• Writing

• Speaking

• Listening

According to Covey, a lot of training is given regarding reading, writing, and speaking to improve communication, but there is no such training for the all-important listening part.

The Concept of Empathic Listening

When we listen to a person, we generally listen to one of four levels:

1 - Ignoring

2 - Pretending

3 - Selective Listening

4 - Attentive Listening

Covey wants to draw attention towards the most important fifth level, which is empathic listening because it helps to see the world from other people angle so that you can recognize how they feel.

Most people concentrate on the autobiographical response while listening instead of empathic response. They advised on behalf of their frame of reference rather than understanding the other person context. The problem with this is, the other person didn’t have the vision to see their perception, and they start to believe that you don’t put real effort to understand them.

Covey, in this book, also explain an example of a father and son. In that example, the father was trying to help out his son, but the communication goes the wrong way. The main reason for that is because the father was trying to give suggestions to his son on the basis of his experience. He completely ignores the situation of his son, which make things difficult for the son to rely on the opinion of his father.

Skills of Empathic Listening

Empathic listening cannot be mastered in a day. There are some outstanding sills that you need to practice so that you can enhance your empathic listening capabilities listed below:

1 - First Skill – Mimic Content

This is the first and foremost skill of empathic listening. It’s all about creating engagement with the listener by repeating back his words. This skill is not that hard because all you need is to listen carefully to the words of the speaker and repeat them.

2 - Second Skill – Rephrase the Content

The second skill is content rephrasing. It’s like putting the meaning of listeners to your own words. This skill comes under verbal communication but is quite effective because it gives the feel to the listener that you are concentrating on what he is saying.

3 - Third Skill – Reflect Feeling

The third skill deals with emotions and feelings. This skill is more about what the person feels instead of what he says.

4 - Fourth Skill – Rephrase the Content and Reflect the Feeling

This is the final skill, which is a blend of both the second and third skill. With this skill, you can provide the psychological air to the listener because you not only rephrase the content but also adds the feelings in it as well.

Now come to the second part, which is how to be understood.

As seeking to understand needs consideration, similarly seeking to understand requires courage along with the character, and quality.

According to Covey, being understood is not that difficult if you take care of the following things:

1 - Recognize the frame of reference of the speaker.

2 - Gain their trust on the basis of previous collaborations.

3 - Present a worthy rational argument to make it easy for people to understand you.

Seeking to understand is like your perspective is being heard. If it doesn’t happen and the person simply ignores your point of view, then the best way is to simply say no because thinking of winning from there is about wasting your time.

How Habit 5 helps In Real Life

Let’s consider an example of a designing company. In order to become a successful designing firm, it is quite essential for them to listen to their customers empathically so that they really understand what their customers want. If they don’t do that, then they will be wasting too much of their time in revisions because customers will not be satisfied until they don’t get the desired design. It seriously costs a lot to the business.

Outcomes from habit 5 seek first to understand then to be understood

The key consequence of habit 5 seek first to understand then to be understood is not only to listen attentively but listen empathically because attentive listening alone doesn’t have the power to communicate efficiently. When we listen to someone, we straightaway thought that we have a solution to their problem. Instead of coming up with the answer instantly, it’s better to take some time out and understand what they are really looking for.