Seek to understand

Seek to understand

By Jean Ricot Dormeus

I had my most embarrassing moment in my professional career when during a staff meeting I answered a question assuming that I had heard correctly. It happened that my answer was off the mark. I got some puzzled looks and a bad feeling. My colleague who asked the question had to repeat it for me to get it. Since that time, I made the decision to seek to understand well before giving any feedback. I also learned that understanding or clarity illuminates the road to effectiveness and success.

Stephen Covey highlighted the crucial importance of the habit of understanding first in his seminal book “7 Habits of Highly effective People”. He said, “Seek to understand, then to be understood… Communication is a critical aspect of productive interpersonal relationships. When truly effective interdependent people communicate, they first try to understand the other person’s perspective before expressing their own”. An instinctive reaction without proper context and perspective often leads to confusion and embarrassment. 

Adhering to the habit of understanding promotes peace and harmony while preventing and helping to manage conflicts or arguments. If such is the case, what can we do to internalize it? First, we must keep our emotions from clouding our judgment and avoid going to a stimulus – response mode. Secondly, we must adopt a good life philosophy and develop patience and tolerance. Lastly, we must deliberately practice the habit of understanding first before it takes root.

As we seek to understand before reacting or being understood, our communication skills will soar. We will experience more joy and success in our families, our businesses, our churches or community groupings. Further, we will become less prone to anger or suspicion. 

The next time you feel the urge to react immediately, take a break, seek to understand and empathize. With this change alone you will make a determining impact on your social environment.

Jean Ricot Dormeus

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“To concede defeat when you are entrusted with a mission amounts to jeopardizing the utility and quality of the rest of your life. Is it worth it?”

Jean Ricot Dormeus, Land of Dormant Dreams – A Walk into the Future, p. 61