“Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.”
– Saint Francis of Assisi
In his much-acclaimed book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey states habit #5 as, “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.” This is key when it comes to influence because your inner behavior must match your outer persona. So unless people believe you understand them, trust is impossible and they’ll be too defensive, angry or afraid to be influenced.
Communication requires a whole host of events that take place in a nanosecond: listening, taking in information, processing, sorting, expressing information, and listening again. The reason we so often don’t “get” what other people are saying is because unconsciously, communication is preceded by perception.
Are you listening, really?
When someone speaks to us, our absorption of the information is influenced through an inner filter we unconsciously bring to the table: our autobiographies, personal experiences, education, assumptions and performed beliefs that show up with seemingly no trigger. What’s really going on is that we’re “listening” at a lower level of awareness. We may be ignoring what’s being said, pretending to listen, or practicing selective, (i.e. what’s in it for me?) hearing.
To be a skilled influencer, practice empathetic listening. Recognize the speaker by looking her in the eye, staying focused in the moment, and listening with the intention of appreciating her frame of reference and feelings. Listening with your ears, your eyes and your heart is empathetic listening. When practiced, it’s amazing what other perspectives, ideas and emotions you’ll open yourself up to!
Your Circle of Influence
What makes Habit 5 so powerful is that it focuses on your circle of influence. In other words, it’s an inside out approach. You are focusing on building your understanding. First, you become influenceable, which is the key to influencing others. As you appreciate people more, they’ll appreciate you! Opportunities to practice this habit proactively occur every day with your co-workers, customers, friends, and family.
Influence It! Take charge of your perceptions. Pay attention to what you ‘give’ to another person, how well you create a safe space.
Next to physical survival, the greatest need each of us share is psychological survival…being understood, affirmed, validated and appreciated. I know that’s true for me. How about you?