Seek First to Understand, Then Seek to be Understood

These are quite challenging times. Not since the fractured 1960s (and despite my youthful demeanor, I lived through the ‘60s) have we had this much dissonance. We don’t debate, we argue. We don’t question, we confront. We don’t discuss, we assert. Civility is endangered.

Recently, a newscaster disclosed her parents refused to attend her wedding because she expressed a political view quite contrary to theirs. Hopefully, there is more to the backstory; however, discord over political paradigms is commonplace.

Recent Supreme Court decisions, Congressional hearings, and primary electioneering have further polarized us. Modern media is defined as “left wing” or “right wing” rather than the objective entity it once was. Certainly, there was occasional misinformation, but not intentional disinformation in the classic days of broadcast news.  CNN, Fox, MSNBC, OAN, et al, have significant broadcast hours masquerading as news, but are actually opinion shows. Interviewers and interviewees either posture questions to affirm one another’s beliefs, or talk over oppositional opinions such that the viewer has no context with which to make a judgment. Ask about inflation, and the topic goes right to January 6th. Ask about January 6th and the topic goes to gas prices. This discrediting discourse helps no one.

Historically, court cases announced by the newscasters would not label the adjudicator as Reagan/Clinton/Bush/Obama/Trump/Biden appointee. Making the president an adjective postures the case automatically.

Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People cites Habit #5, Seek first to understand then seek to be understood. First, seek the facts. Read. And be sure to read the entire article, as information in the back paragraphs will more holistically frame the story. Second, listen to an opposing point of view. Listen, not just to hear the words, but to restate the individual’s position to demonstrate you truly understand. Understanding and agreement are not synonyms. Finally, the facts behind your opinion matter, not just your opinion. If you “fail” to bring the person to your side of an issue, it’s not their fault. You have not yet uttered the right syllables.

Seek first to understand, then seek to be understood.