Ever feel like no one understands you? That no one is listening? We all want to be heard and understood, right? But do we really listen to others?
St. Francis of Assisi said it first: “Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be understood as to understand.”
Steven Covey, in his bestselling book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” talks about the 5th Habit being “Seek to Understand.” So many times we are thinking about what we want to say next, what our experience was, give advice or ask a question. I know I am very guilty of this. Mr. Covey suggests that we change our habit to learn to really listen to the other person. He calls is “empathic listening”: really trying to understand what the other person is feeling behind their words.
Jesus himself said, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak” (James 1:19).
It’s a hard habit to break, but if I apply the slow to speak principle, I am more apt to listen better. Then I can work on framing my response in a more empathetic way. Instead of focusing on how I can “help” the person solve their problem, I think Covey is saying it is more important to focus on making them feel heard by empathizing with them. Empathize means understanding the feelings of another.
Today, I resolve to listen better, speak slower, and really try to empathize with others. Good listening really is a skill and a gift we give to others. It is truly loving your neighbor as yourself.