“Seek First to Understand then to be Understood”? What exactly does that mean? I think that can be answered with one of my teacher’s quotes “You have Two Ears and One Mouth- Use them in that Proportion”
Here are my Tips for how to Seek first to Understand then to be Understood:
- Stop and Listen
- Think about what the other person is saying and why they are saying it
- Don’t think about how you will answer, but rather what meaning they are trying to convey
- Ask Questions about what they are saying to clarify
- Then Once you are SURE you understand what the other person’s perspective is, respond
Why do I say to stop and listen? Because active listening is an art. It requires effort on the part of the listener to quiet their brain down, and really listen and absorb what the other person is trying to convey. Your answer is not the important part here, so stop thinking about how you will answer before the person is done speaking. Let them speak. Seek First to Understand THEN to be understood. The understanding piece comes first.
Ask questions to make sure that you understand the other person’s perspective. It does no good to respond to something that you understand poorly. You will come across as impatient, and ignorant, at best. Listen. Understand first, then make yourself understood.
Once you are absolutely sure that you understand the other person’s perspective, then craft your response. How will you make yourself understood? That is the point at which the conversation should be coming out of your mouth, but in a carefully thought out manner.
One additional tip that I have is that not everything requires an instant response. In fact, very few things do. If you need to think about what the correct way to answer something is, ask for the time, and set a deadline for when you’ll have an answer.