Monday, June 6, 2011

Book Club: Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

I first started reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in 2004 or 2005. Even though the first few habits revolutionized my life, I never finished the book, which is why I wanted to read it again.

I thought I had only made it through the first three habits, since those are the ones that are deeply ingrained into my being. However, as I continue reading the book for our little book club, I keep seeing my notes in the margins. I figured I had only made it halfway through the last habit, but my notes kept going. And then I thought there was no way I had read this habit: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. But lo and behold, my notes go all the way through that chapter, too.

So then I thought to myself, "Why in the heck don't I remember these latter habits?"

And then it hit me: The first three habits are the ones related to getting mastery over one's self and one's life. They are the keys to independence. The second three habits help one move from independence to interdependence. It occurred to me that I never internalized the last set of habits because I wasn't ready for them back in 2005. I needed to spend six years(!) working on the first three. Now I'm ready to move forward.

Sheesh, personal growth can be such a slow process!

Now onto Habit #5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. I am so, so bad at this! Is it because I was an only child for 15 years and am very self-centered? Is it because I'm an INTJ on the Myers-Briggs personality assessment and I am very quick to collect data and make a judgement? Is it because I have a wounded little girl inside of me (since my father never wanted anything to do with me) and she's always too busy trying to get her need for attention satiated to really seek to understand others?

It's probably a combination of all three (Look! I'm already starting to break my habit of seeing things through a black-and-white lens!).

Regardless of the reason, it's something I desperately need to work on. Stat!

I was fascinated by the idea that we spend years learning how to read and write at school, but we don't learn how to really, really listen to another person. So true! I'm very eager to build this into my school's curriculum. Covey explains that "most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. They're either speaking or preparing to speak. They're filtering everything through their own paradigms, reading their autobiography into other people's lives." (Um, I'm raising my sheepish hand.)

I also love the idea (going back to Covey's claim that real change has to happen from the inside-out) that to really influence another person, you must first understand them.

Once again, I very much appreciated the anecdote illustration of the conversation between the father and the son about how the son doesn't want to go to high school anymore. I liked reading the original version and then the reworked version with "empathetic listening." The idea is to rephrase content and reflect the feeling of what you hear. I need to say that again because I really want to internalize it: To empathetically listen to another person, I need to rephrase the content of what they are saying and reflect the feelings that I think I hear coming through.

I can't wait to work on this habit!

Share |


Ellen said...

This is also echoed in the famous couples-counseling book, Getting the Love you Want. One of the key elements of the dialogue between partners is that the listening partner "mirrors" or repeats back what the first person said, being sure they understood it clearly. I've used this with my partner and been amazed how quickly an agitated conversation will defuse when I "mirror" his sentiments instead of quickly interjecting my own! I need to do it more, though.

andee said...

I should sheepishly raise my hand too. I'm always preparing what my response while the other person is talking - yikes.

Anonymous said...

There's an essay in the newest Harper's about how "7 Habits" is among the required deprogramming reading at the prison at Guantanamo. By the author's estimates, most of the english-speaking prisoners there have read the book. An interesting read.

Related Posts with Thumbnails