Active Listening is not easy to learn and do, but once it becomes a habit, it can transform your relationship forever.
The seven habits are a step by step model that empower couples to be intentional, to make decisions and to act, to move towards a known destination rather than reacting to whatever is happening at the time. Emphasising the importance of self awareness before successful engagement with your partner, the model is a process of learning new habits to create personal and interpersonal effectiveness.
The seven habits are not a quick and easy formula for success, but together they form a powerful model for personal change. Adapted for couples, this series of posts is a respectful homage to Stephen R. Covey who died on July 16, 2012, age 79. Covey will be remembered as a transformational thinker on leadership and personal effectiveness. His book 'The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People' his most lasting legacy.
The seven habits can be divided into two groups - the first three focus on "private victory" and the second three on "public victory", with Habit 7 rounding the previous six to work towards refinement, self renewal and continuous improvement. Covey says "Private Victory precedes Public Victory" which means that you must master yourself before enjoying success outside of ourselves and with our partner.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
Stephen Covey believes this principle is the key to effective interpersonal communication. This habit is about communicating effectively with your partner, developing the habit of listening carefully and really understanding your partner BEFORE giving your thoughts.
Also termed Active Listening, this habit is not easy to learn and do, but by really listening and understanding your partner - by truly listening, your relationship will be transformed. Its not about agreeing or disagreeing, its about seeing how your partner sees the world - through their heart and mind. Listening with empathy and having the courage to really stop and listen, to consider, to restrain, respect and act with reverence. This habit can bring immense intimacy and love to your marriage.
To listen effectively requires us to arrest our ego, to contain our defensiveness and to reduce stonewalling. Its about probing and questioning without the desire to respond but with the intent to listen and understand - empathic communication. If you seek to understand your partners ideas and needs, sharing feelings and emotions and you also gain an accurate view without judgement, nor defending or attacking. Put your natural and automatic responses aside and focus on genuinely understanding your partner.
It is often easier to give your opinion or to give advice. You may spend more time trying to get your partner to understand your position than listening and understanding their position. Ask questions that encourage further understanding such as "Tell me more..." or "What happened next...?" Encourage effective 2-way communication, seek to understand, then request to be understood in return.
Using 'I statements' is a practical way of implementing this habit. Whilst using a 'You' statement points the finger or puts blame onto your partner, using I statements says how it is from your side, how you see it. I statements enable us to be clear about our feelings and to state what we need. I statements are assertive without arousing the defensive behaviour from your partner.
By listening and understanding your partner - by truly listening, your relationship can be renewed, and intimacy will follow. Be patient and seek to understand... you will get your chance to express your thoughts and feeling.
Tune in next week for Habit 6.
Reference: Covey, Stephen R., The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, 1989, Fireside, New York.
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