A few weeks ago we went to a very short (just over an hour) lecture by Dr. Stephen R. Covey. The lecture was about strengthening families and was basically a short rehash of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People with a specific bent towards how the principles of the 7 habits apply to families.
I have long been a fan of Dr. Covey’s work, ever since the first time I read the 7 Habits book. The book changed my overall approach to life, and frankly I think it’s words to live by for anyone and everyone. In other words, I have drunk the “7 Habits” kool-aid.
There was one quote from Dr. Covey that I found particularly poignant during this particular lecture. Speaking about interpersonal communication, he said:
The deepest hunger of the human body is for air. The deepest hunger of the human heart is to be understood.
The part about the hunger for air is pretty clear. Try going without food for 5 minutes. Easy. Done. Try going without air for 5 minutes.
That got pretty hard after about 40 seconds, didn’t it?
It makes sense that the deepest hunger of our hearts is to be understood. It explains why we go to such incredible lengths to try and make people see things our way. From arguments between friends to wars between countries, many a conflict has been a result of people trying make others understand them.
It’s interesting that Dr. Covey says that the key to interpersonal communication is to “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” I wonder how many conflicts, from simple spats between people to major international crises, could be avoided if people tried to understand each other before making themselves understood.
In my experience, it only takes one person to practice this in order for it to work. Two people may be talking, and both are dying to be understood. If one of them decides to understand before being understood, a synergistic exchange of ideas, thoughts, and feelings is much more likely to happen. It’s amazing how willing we are to listen and try to understand someone else when we know that they already understand us.
This is where we come to a mutual understanding. When both people understand each other, because both have really made that efford to understand and not just be understood, then real communication has happened and real results can be enjoyed and appreciated.