We typically seek first to be understood.
We’re either speaking or preparing to speak.
When we listen, Stephen Covey observes, it is often with the intent to reply.
Our tendency is to rush in. To fix things up with advice. Stephen notes in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People we don’t always take the time to diagnose. To really, deeply understand the problem. As a result, we miss opportunities to understand what’s really going on with the important people in our lives.
Or, we project our own “home movies” onto other people’s behavior. We read our autobiography into what the other person is saying: “Oh, I know exactly how you feel! I went through the very same thing. Let me tell you about my experience.”
Other times, we get stuck. We want to be right. We’re filled with our rightness.
The issue, we’re convinced, is that the other person doesn’t understand what we are saying. So, we repeat it. If they still don’t get it, we get frustrated. Or, angry.
Often, while the other person is talking, Stephen observes we’re “listening” on one of four incomplete levels:
2: Pretending – “Yeah, uh-huh, right…”
3: Selective listening – paying attention to certain parts of what is being said
4: Attentive listening – paying attention and focusing our energy on the just the words being said
Each level is better than the prior, but even level four is not complete as we miss the feelings behind the words.
The good news? There is a better way, a fifth level of listening which we can practice and learn to master, writes Stephen.
Reflection: How often do I fall into one of the levels of listening? Are there certain situations where this is likely to occur?
Action: Read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People or The 8th Habit, in which Stephen summarizes the prior book and adds to it. I am a BIG fan of Stephen Covey. Reading his books and putting the ideas into action has improved my life in a significant way. If you haven’t read one of these, you are in for a treat. If you have, consider revisiting the material. It’s timeless.