Habit 5, Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood, Four Autobiographical Responses (Introduction)

Author’s quotes:

“Because we listen autobiographically, we tend to respond in one of four ways. We EVALUATE—we either agree or disagree; we PROBE—we ask questions from our own frame of reference; we ADVISE—we give counsel based on our own experience; or we INTERPRET—we try to figure people out, to explain their motives, their behavior, based on our own motives and behavior.

These responses come naturally to us. We are deeply scripted in them; we live around models of them all the time. But how do they affect our ability to really understand?

If I’m trying to communicate with my son, can he feel free to open himself up to me when I evaluate everything he says before her really explains it? Am I giving him psychological air?

And how does he feel when I probe? Probing is playing twenty questions. It’s autobiographical, it controls, and it invades. It’s also logical, and the language of logic is different from the language of sentiment and emotion. You can play twenty questions all day and not find out what’s important to someone. Constant probing is one of the main reasons parents do not get close to their children.

You will never be able to truly step inside another person, to see the world as he sees it, until you develop the pure desire, the strength of personal character, and the positive Emotion Bank Account as sell as the empathic listen skills to do it.

The skills, the tip of the iceberg of empathic listening, involve four developmental stages.

The first and least effective is to mimic content. This is the skill taught in ‘active’ or ‘reflective’ listening. Without the character and relationship base, it is often insulting to people and causes them to close up. It is however, a first stage skill because it at least causes you to listen to what’s being said.

Mimicking content is easy. You just listen to the words that come out of someone’s mouth and you repeat them. You’re hardly even using your brain at all.

The second stage of empathic listening is to rephrase the content. It’s a little more effective, but it’s still limited to the verbal communication.

‘Boy, Dad, I’ve had it! School is for the birds!’ ‘You don’t want to go to school anymore?’ This time you’ve put his meaning into your own words. Now you’re thinking about what he said, mostly with the left side, the reasoning, logical side of the brain.

The third stage brings your right brain into operation. You reflect feeling. ‘Boy, Dad, I’ve had it! School is for the birds!’ ‘You’re feeling really frustrated.’

Now you’re not paying as much attention to what he’s saying as you are to the way he feels about what he’s saying. The fourth stage includes both the second and the third. You rephrase the content and reflect the feeling.

‘Boy, Dad, I’ve had it! School is for the birds!’ ‘You’re really frustrated about school.’ Frustration is the feeling; school is the content.”

Personal comment:

I’ll reserve comment until the conclusion of this topic next time.

Next Habit 5
Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood
Four Autobiographical Responses (Conclusion)

Habit 5, Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood, Diagnose Before You Prescribe

Author’s quotes:

“Although it’s risky and hard, seek first to understand, or diagnose before you prescribe, is a correct principle manifest in many areas of life. It’s the mark of all true professionals. It’s critical for the optometrist, it’s critical for he physician. You wouldn’t have any confidence in a doctor’s prescription unless you had confidence in the diagnosis.

This principle is also true in sales, is fundamental to law, is also true in product design, engineering, and ….

Seek first to understand is a correct principle evident in all areas of life. It’s a generic, common denominator principle, but it has its greatest power in the area of interpersonal relations.”

Personal comments:

This short Covey quotes section gives me an opportunity to reflect on future posts.

I’ll finish Habit 5 and then cover the key elements of Habits 6 and 7.

After 7 Habits, the next series of posts will focus on, “Leadership Behavior Model”, a model that was developed by a management staff in a company I use to work for. It’s an interesting story of how difficult it is to move from words on paper to day-to-day reality. It is an important message to learn. I’ll cover the contents of the Model then relate experiences that demonstrate success, and why, and cover failures, and why.

During the period of time from May through summer there will be some lapses (I’ll be downstate) in my weekly schedule, but I will return to that schedule as quickly as possible.

Next Habit 5
Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood
Four Autobiographical Responses

Habit 5 Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood, Empathic Listening (continued)

Author’s quotes:

“Empathic listening is so powerful because it gives you accurate data to work with. Instead of projecting your own autobiography and assuming thoughts, feelings, motives and interpretation, you’re dealing with the reality inside another person’s head and heart. You’re listening to understand. You’re focused on receiving the deep communication of another human soul.

In addition, empathic listening is the key to making deposits in Emotional Bank Accounts, because nothing you do is a deposit unless the other person perceives it as such.

Empathic listening is, in and of itself, a tremendous deposit in the Emotional bank Account. It’s deeply therapeutic and healing because it gives a person “psychological air.”

But now that you have air, it doesn’t motivate you. This is one of the greatest insights in the field of human motivation: Satisfied needs do not motivate. It’s only the unsatisfied need that motivates. Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival—to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated.

When you listen with empathy to another person, you give that person psychological air. And after that vital need is met, you can then focus on influencing or problem solving.

This need for psychological air impacts communication in every area of life.

Seeking first to understand, diagnosing before you prescribe, is hard. It’s so much easier in the short run to hand someone a pair of glasses that have fit you so well these many years.

But in the long run, it severally depletes both P and PC. You can’t achieve maximum interdependent production from an inaccurate understanding of where other people are coming from. And you can’t have interpersonal PC—high Emotional Bank Accounts—if the people you relate with don’t really feel understood.

Empathic listening is also risky. It takes a great deal of security to go into a deep listening experience because you open yourself up to be influenced. You become vulnerable. It’s a paradox, in as sense, because in order to have influence you have to be influenced. That means you have to really understand.

That’s why Habits 1, 2 and 3 are so foundational. They give you the changeless inner core, the principle center, from which you can handle the more outward vulnerability with peace and strength.”

Personal comments:

The other day I had a wonderful conversation with someone who spent more time asking about me, than I could about them. It felt great, especially in this world where I hear an overabundance of “I”, “me” statements. It’s rather discouraging to think there is so much self-centeredness today.

Empathic listening is not easy, but in order to develop more than a superficial level of relationships, learning how to is a significant step toward a meaningful “connection”. Personally, I prefer to get past the blabber/bragging phase of communication, and become more than “fodder” for a commentary, or an audience for the self-serving.

Next Habit 5
Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood
Diagnose Before You Prescribe

Habit 5, Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood, Empathic Listening

Author’s quotes:

“ ‘Seek first to understand’ involves a very deep shift in paradigm. We typically seek first to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. They’re either speaking or preparing to speak. They’re filtering everything through their own paradigms, reading their autobiography into other people’s lives.

When another person speaks, we’re usually ‘listening’ at one of four levels. We may be ignoring another person, not really listening at all. We may practice pretending. ‘Yeah. Uh-huh. Right.’ We may practice selective listening, hearing only certain parts of the conversation. We often do this when we’re listening to the constant chatter of a preschool child. Or we may even practice attentive listening, paying attention and focusing energy on the words that are being said. But very few of us ever practice the fifth level, the highest form of listening, empathic listening.

When I say empathic listening, I mean listening with intent to understand. I mean seeking first to understand, to really understand. It’s an entirely different paradigm.

Empathic (from empathy) listening gets inside another person’s frame of reference. You look out through it, you see the world the way they see the world, you understand their paradigm, you understand how they feel.

Empathy is not sympathy. Sympathy is a form of agreement, a form of judgment. And it is sometimes the more appropriate emotion and response. But people often feed on sympathy. It makes them dependent. The essence of empathic listening is not that you agree with someone; it’s that you fully, deeply, understand that person, emotionally as well as intellectually.

Empathic listening involves much more than registering, reflecting, or even understanding the words that are said. Communications experts estimate, in fact, the only 10 percent of our communication is represented by the words we say. Another 30 percent is represented by our sounds, and 60 percent by our body language. In empathic listening, you listen with your ears, but you also, and ore importantly, listen with your eyes and with your heart. You listen for feeling, for meaning. You listen for behavior. You use your right brain as well as your left. You sense, you intuit, you feel.

Personal comments:

What I’ve noticed about my 17 year-old granddaughter is that our conversations take place with her “nose” in her iPhone, and she is selectively listening to what I say. She represents millions of people who are more focused on what appears on their cell phones, or the cell phone sounds it makes. As someone who grew up with face-to-face communication, this interruption (as I call it) is unnerving.

As the trend grows humans will be more concerned about things that don’t matter instead of things that do; family, neighbors, those in need, those who yearn for true companionship. Honesty and caring have been replaced with falsehoods, trickery, deception, along with other habits that are more disturbing.

Empathic listening discussion will continue next week (April 15, 2015).

Next Habit 5
Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood
Empathic Listening (continued)