By Lavern Nissley
Recently I was asked the question: "So what piece of advice would you give to anyone across the board in any relationship? Is there something that fits for anyone in any relationship?" While I'm not usually one to propose "one size fits all" responses, here's how I answered the question.
SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND, THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD. You might recognize this as Habit #5 of Stephen Covey's classic book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, first published in 1989. I first read 7 Habits in 1990 and have always been struck by the simplicity and potency of this master skill of life and relationships. It changed my own life and the way I try to connect with people.
Most of us do it backwards. Seek first to BE understood, then to understand. That actually creates "relationship gridlock", where no one is moving forward in understanding.
But what if I decide that I'm going to honor others by understanding where they're coming from FIRST? Then I'll be better equipped to help them understand my own perspectives. It's like a healthcare professional who diagnoses first, then prescribes, NOT the other way around!
In order to practice this master skill it will be important to ask good, inquisitive questions with a tone of gentle sincerity (versus attacking or "gotcha" bullying). Not an interrogation!
Start (or continue) today in taking your effectiveness habits to another level: SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND, THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD.
Lavern & Ronda Nissley are co-directors of Encompass. Married since 1978, both enjoy coffee, riding their tandem bicycle and working together to build strong relationships.