FranklinCovey Blog

Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012 | 7 Habits, FranklinCovey News, Online Learning, The 7 Habits | 0 Comments

FranklinCovey has recently partnered with OpenSesame to offer some of our online learning courses to their catalog. In addition, the company is reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Below is a guest post from James Lavery, a Content Development Specialist at OpenSesame.

The 5th Habit of Highly Effective People struck home for me because it is something that my mother has taught me from a young age… but not something I’ve always been great at executing.

I come from a family of highly opinionated people. In most situations, everyone takes their own opinion as absolute truth and has no interest in the opinions of others. To this day, I often find myself wracking my brain provide an answer to a question or problem that the person I’m speaking to hasn’t yet fully articulated. I have a desire to interject with my advice, my corrections, my opinions.

 A few months ago on one of my first days working at OpenSesame, I answered my first office call. I was so excited to finally speak with a potential seller that when they answered the phone I almost forgot to introduce myself. Rather than ask them if they had any questions about OpenSesame or how we work, I immediately went right into who we are, our goals, and our mission statement – with gusto. I was almost 5 minutes into the call before I found out that this person was not a possible partner for us.

 As Dr. Covey writes in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Communication is the most important skill in life.” We speak or otherwise relay our message, take in what other people have to say, and formulate a response. Dr. Covey posits, however, that “most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” As Dr. Covey describes, sometimes we are so focused on getting our message across that we completely forget that the person we are attempting to communicate with is speaking from their own frame of reference.

 My first sales call with OpenSesame could have benefited from a knowledge of empathetic listening (alas, our office had only read through Habit 2 by that point). In that moment I needed to be discerning and aware. I needed to hear and understand the client’s needs and concerns. I needed to hear that a potential business relationship had little chance of succeeding. Our business development manager always tells us in training that it is good to get the client talking about what they do and what they offer first. After reading about this habit I now see how correct he is. Allowing people to talk about themselves makes them comfortable communicating with you. It gives you accurate information to work with, and it builds what Dr. Covey would call the “emotional bank account” between the two of you.

 Fortunately, although my first call was not perfect, I quickly learned that the most important skill in communication was listening first. Now I start off every call by introducing myself, and then asking the person on the phone who they are and what they know about OpenSesame rather than tell them about OpenSesame.

 James Lavery is a student at Whitman College and a Content Development Specialist at OpenSesame, the world’s largest eLearning marketplace.

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