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By Angela Mutiso
Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
Many people do not communicate effectively. They know what they want to say, but cannot express it
appropriately and succinctly. It is often said that not only does listening enhance your ability to
understand better and make you a better communicator, it also makes the experience of speaking to you more enjoyable to other people.
The advantages of listening are numerous and very strong. You can only comprehend others, improve
relationships, persuade or sell effectively, manage and inspire a team, or learn from others through effective listening.Actual communication requires active listening. Being the sharpest person in the room does not require constant speaking. In our relationships, not listening can lead to annoyance, disappointment and contempt.
We can establish deeper emotional ties with individuals when we listen to them. Our ability to listen well gives us influence in conversations. Unfortunately, this authority is frequently viewed as an allor-nothing proposition by some people. Either we interrupt, argue, or dominate while remaining mute and biting our
tongues. These are the only options, in our opinion. We have the ability to prevent these extremes thanks to our effective listening skills.
With effective listening, we can control an emotionally charged conversation, keep it on topic, and make sure that everyone’s opinion is taken into account, even if everyone does not share that opinion. Recognizing and overcoming inefficient listening patterns is the first step to developing great listening skills. Most frequently, failing to pay attention while listening leads to interrupting others. This occurs because we often talk to ourselves when we are listening to someone else.
Make an effort to think without speaking. Can you continue doing it for along? The words we use to think may be louder than anything diverting our focus, such as someone else’s comments. This is especially true if we are having a difficult time interacting because of our emotions. When we’re on the defensive, for instance, the questions we ask ourselves might make us lose focus.
“With effective listening, we can control an emotionally charged conversation, keep it on topic, and
make sure that everyone’s opinion is taken into account, even if everyone does not share that
opinion. Recognizing and overcoming inefficient listening patterns is the first step to developing
great listening skills.“
You often ask yourself question like, is this correct? Am I in agreement? Why are these words being directed to me? What is being held back? The best way to prevent these internal conversations from drowning out the external conversation is to remember that certain steps of listening must be accomplished in order to: Understand the message from the talker’s perspective, then analyze the message for its significance, accuracy and persuasiveness.
It’s not necessary for me to concur with or affirm what I hear in order to understand the talker’s message.
Because of this, there is a second level of hearing that enables us to inquire about the information and make important judgments. I can express in my own words the substance of the speaker’s primary point if I comprehend the message from their point of view. Reflective listening skills are frequently used to describe this paraphrasing.
By reflecting back the message as we understand it, we are serving as a “mirror” for the talker. Have you ever noticed for example that when you call an organization to protest, they often rephrase what you have said to show that you are in agreement about the problem? Reflective listening is a very important
aspect of our conversations. Paraphrasing what you have been told, helps the speaker to be more to
When someone is angry, and seems like they are attacking you with their words, and you are being
given confusing instructions, try to paraphrase what you are hearing. The talker eventually becomes clearer. In addition, when someone is very upset and, and appears to be attacking you, calmly summarize what they are saying and their frustration and find out how you can help.
Never underestimate the power of a gentle laugh, when someone tries to be ironic, instead, interpret
what the person is trying to express and change the tone of the conversation to reflect the actual message. By doing this, you have taken control of a problematic situation and changed the direction of the conversation to a much more reasonable and balanced interaction. That is the strength of good
Remember, learning to paraphrase is one of the most challenging communication abilities. You realize that in the past, you have spent so much time trying to defend yourself when approached by a difficult person, but upon reflection,you recognize that you can solve a lot of problems though proper listening skills. These include, assessing, paraphrasing, and comprehending. Remember, if you have not been doing it this way before, it may take some time to be comfortable with it, but when you do, it will be a very useful tool going forward.
Some important guidelines to consider when paraphrasing according to ken. edu are: (excerpts)…
• Do not become a “parrot” who restates everything the talker says. Paraphrase means capturing the
essence of the main point. You can for example say…Obviously I’m not understanding what you’re saying.
This is what I thought I heard you say…”
• When you are unable to determine the main point, acknowledge the emotion: “This is obviously
frustrating so let’s take it one step at a time to figure out how to fix this.” Do not, however, say “I know
how you feel” even if you have experienced a similar upset. This is their moment to experience strong
emotion, not yours.
• Keep the paraphrase neutral. Remember this is your first response to what you are hearing. Use the
power of paraphrase to keep the conversation calm. Avoid putting evaluation in the paraphrase, “You
shouldn’t be so worried about this.”
• Delay responding until you really do understand. Listen for the moral to the story. Or listen for the period at the end of the sentence before jumping in.
• Match your paraphrase style to the talker’s style. If they are detailoriented, paraphrase with detail.
If they are “bottom line-oriented,” paraphrase succinctly.
Think of how powerful a person is who can keep a conversation issue focused and who does not react defensively. Being the listener in an interaction is not the passive, helpless position many believe it to be. Good listening skills influence the success of the conversation. That is powerful.
Listening is more than just hearing what someone is saying; effective listening involves comprehending the context in which those words are given, as well as additional verbal and nonverbal indicators including tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language.
When we actively listen, we engage in mindfulness practices, we are present with those around us, and we
don’t let distractions steal our attention away from what is most important at that precise moment: which is understanding, showing compassion and empathy.
Extensive research has shown the impact of listening keenly. It enables, stranger relationships in organizations, builds trust, makes people collaborate better and boosts productivity. It also leads to enhanced innovation and better individual and group decision-making.
Listening With Intent and Compassion
In his international bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey outlined seven key principles that drive personal and organizational success, including habit number six,
“Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.” As part of this habit, in discussing the importance of listening with intent to understand, Covey states,
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” If we fall into the alltoo-common trap of tuning out while we formulate our own response, we will never fully “be” with the person sitting in front of us and we will have little chance of fully understanding them and helping them feel heard and valued.
Below are some Bible verses on effective communication/listening
James 1:19 -Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Proverbs 18:13 – If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.
Proverbs 18:2 – A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
Proverbs 25:11 – A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
Proverbs 15:1 – A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 10:19 – When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
Psalm 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
Proverbs 12:18 There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Proverbs 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
Colossians 3:8 – But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
2 Timothy 2:16 – But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness
Psalm 141:3 – Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!
Proverbs 16:23 -The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips.
Source: Bible verses on effective communication- helpful votes
The Author is the editorial consultant of the Accountant Journal