Relationships are difficult and when things become a little challenging, we all have a tendency to rush in and try to give advice or fix things before taking valuable time to listen and diagnose the issue. Simple, the tricks is to always try and understand the other person then try to be understood. In relationships like in life, things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which least matter (Goethe). The most important ingredient each of us involved in a relationship can contribute is not what we say or do but who we are, if our actions , attitudes and reasons come from a superficial technique rather than an inner core of deep commitment our partners will see us for who we really are – well at least eventually.
One of the habits that Stephen Covey asserts in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is the fifth Seek first to Understand, Then to be understood. Most of us do not realize the reason as to why the good Lord gave us two ears and just one mouth. Empathic listening – Really trying to understand what the other person is communicating plays an important role in building strong relationships. This is specifically important in relationships first when disagreements arise (they always will) and when opinions differ. Even with this, those in relationships must realize that synergy draws its energy and effectiveness from differences between people and that all the facets – Emotional, mental and psychological differences all contribute to this. It is only when couples value the differences in perception that they are able to transcend the limits created by their individual respective paradigms of life and the situation at hand.
In practicing the 5th habit, one of the most important aspects is that we make ourselves vulnerable as we give ourselves away to the other person. However, it is only when we truly make ourselves vulnerable that we are able to lower our guards and emphatically listen and understands. Remember this, needs that are satisfied do not motivate us to action and similarly, each of us in the relationship must not move to solve a problem before ensuring that the other’s need of being understood has been fully met. Diagnose before you prescribe.
Finally, remember that whenever your partner has a problem and you really listen to understand them, you will be surprised at how fully he or she will open up to you. Empathetic listening is not easy, and takes time to learn and master, however, it is not nearly as costly and as much time-consuming as it will be to correct misunderstandings further down the road. Maturity, which is the balance between courage and consideration, is thus a major ingredient in practicing the Seek first to understand then to be understood principle. Seeking to understand requires consideration whereas, seeking to be understood takes courage.