Seek first to understand

Out of all of the 7 habits of highly effective people, this one stands out the most for me. It’s been one of the most transformative to me, it’s stuck in my brain the longest, and is the advice I give the most often:

Seek first to understand then to be understood.

Why is this important?

You become open to new possibilities

It begins with openness. You set yourself up to be ready to listen—actually listen—to what the other person has to say. You ask clarifying questions, you really try to see the world and their ideas through their eyes.

You test it.

You try it on for size.

You’re open to the possibility that they could be right and you could be wrong. Or maybe those terms apply and you now have a better idea that you can adopt.

The conversation doesn’t have to be hostile, and you’re making room for another person to exist, have ideas and opinions, and have a safe place to share them.

You learn to speak their language

Communication will become easier because you’ll better understand the other person’s perspective. It will make the overall conversation go much smoother. This will also set you up to better communicate your idea in a way that will make it easier for the other person to understand.

You can relate your ideas to theirs and help them see what you’re able to see.

This can only happen when you fully understand their perspective and can see what they are able to see.

You walk away with the better idea

Whether you’re able to convince another person of your idea, or perhaps they’re able to convince you of theirs, you walk away with the better idea.

The point isn’t to win—that’s ego.

The point is to have the better ideas, it doesn’t matter if they’re not yours.