The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Career Changers - Become An Expert Communicator  

2 men cover their ears as woman close to them uses a megaphone.

By Gillian Watson, Associate Elect & Legends Report Writer

Whether you are looking to improve how you manage people, the influence you have in meetings or you are looking to create new opportunities for your career options, this fifth habit and principle is imperative to master. In this fifth part of the Guide To Your Dream Career, we focus on how to truly communicate effectively.

In the last part of our series, we discussed how working on our relationships is as important as working on our own habits and how we can improve in areas of our life and our career by doing this.  If we can’t manage our connections and relationships in a way that benefits all involved, we are not able to fully practise the principle of thinking win-win.

Were you able to identify some ways in your own interactions that were focused on what you can get, instead of what you can give and through that receive? Did you battle to see where you can start making changes?

Don’t worry! Developing your understanding of habit 5, as we will discuss here, will help you practise habit 4!

Seek First To Understand

Think about the last conversation you had with someone. When you asked them a question, did they consider their answer, or did they already have an answer ready to go, almost like they answered automatically?

The last time someone was telling you a story about their day, did you really listen? Or did your mind instead wander with what you may say to them next? Or think about what story you would tell them in response? This misses the opportunity to really understand what they were really trying to tell you…

"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply."           Stephen Covey

Most of us focus on what we want to say, we make sure our voice is heard, to get our point across. Instead of what we could hear beyond the words, in someone’s tone, in their body language and delivery of what they were saying.  The point of their message has the potential to be missed completely. So much of how we communicate now is filtered through our own experiences - our frame of reference and how we can respond. This is autobiographical listening. We have forgotten how to focus on listening without any agenda or attempt to jump in with a response.

Think about the last business meeting you were in - were there times when you were more in your head about how you could ask a clever question or make a statement to impress the executives? Rather than fully listening during someone else’s presentation? How could you act differently in the future? How well do you think everyone around the table was listening to each other?

Because we so often listen autobiographically, our responses are usually one of these four:

  • Evaluating:      Judge and then either agree or disagree
  • Probing:           Ask questions from your own frame of reference
  • Advising:         Give counsel and solutions to problems
  • Interpreting:   Analyse others’ motives and behaviours based on your own experiences

Sound familiar? We all have done this and drawing from our own experiences is not bad in some situations. These types of responses may be appropriate, such as when another person specifically asks for help from your point of view or when there is already a very high level of trust in the relationship. However, any other interaction should be focused on understanding what the person is really trying to communicate.

Listening Should Be Active, Not Passive

"Listening is active. At its most basic level, it's about focus, paying attention". - Simon Sinek

So many of us listen passively - the first act of change we can get from this habit is to shift our practice of how we listen.  Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People defines the principle of empathic listening as listening with the intent to understand, to really understand.  In order to really understand what he says you need to get inside another person’s frame of reference. You need to see the world the way they see it, through their “lens.”

There are four levels of empathic listening:

  1. Mimic content, repeating back what the person says. Example: “I really can’t stand work!” You reply, “You can’t stand work.”
  2. Rephrase the content. Example: “I really can’t stand work!” You reply, “You’re not enjoying work.”
  3. Reflect feeling. Example: “I really can’t stand work!” You reply, “You’re unhappy.”
  4. Rephrase the content and reflect the feeling. Example: “I really can’t stand work!” You reply, “You’re not happy at work.”

Level 4 is obviously the highest and it takes the most work. If you have ever experienced someone else taking this type of care when listening to you, it makes a huge difference to how you feel during the encounter.  Can you imagine yourself being this focused on listening to someone else?

This habit favours curiosity, open-mindedness, empathy, and patience. In order to really seek to understand, we can’t enter into any interaction already judging a person or situation.  Sounds so simple in theory and yet many of us find it very difficult in practice!

Then To Be Understood 

After all these techniques, practices and active listening, only then it will be your turn to be understood and Stephen Covey says you will be understood if you have achieved the following:

  • You have taken the time to truly understand the other person’s frame of reference.
  • The other person trusts you based on your previous interactions.
  • You present a good logical argument.

There are so many opportunities to practise this habit in your career - whether you are looking to improve how you manage people, the influence you have in meetings or you are looking to create new opportunities for your career options, this habit is imperative to master. So, where will you start?

How To Apply This

    Would you like to improve your own listening and communication skills?

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    At home with the familyAt workWith my bossWith my teamWith my colleaguesWith my partner / spouseWith my kidsAll of the above!

    Would you like to come to workshops / webinars to become highly effective at listening and communicating?
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