Stephen Covey was Wrong?

Stephen Covey wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

But he was wrong about one of the habits.

I know…I know…

This is the book that became a #1 international best seller, spawned a $1.4 billion (BILLION!) empire, and inspired millions of human beings to live more effectively (including myself).

So I don’t take this lightly.

But he flat-out messed up on Habit #5.

That’s the one that says: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

Sounds like solid advice, right? What could be wrong with that?

Well, I’ve tried it. And maybe you have too. Let me know if this sounds familiar…

One of my kids is throwing a temper tantrum. A real doozy.

I’ve been there. I was a kid once too. I remember. I understand.

So, I should be able to move on to the part where I can seek to be understood, right? Drop some Daddy knowledge?

Yeah right! Tell that to my 4 year-old.

She doesn’t want to hear what I have to say in the LEAST!!!


Here’s the key piece that Covey missed. Because understanding people clearly isn’t enough.

We have to make sure they FEEL understood.

Did you catch the difference?

We can “seek first to understand” all day long, but if they don’t FEEL understood – if they don’t feel heard – if they don’t feel like their voice matters, then we have no hope of ever trying to get anyone to understand us.

Let me take a stab at re-writing Habit #5 (oh the blasphemy!):

“Seek first to make them FEEL understood, then to understand, THEN to be understood.”

Listening isn’t merely a fact-gathering exercise. We listen to connect with people. Always address feelings before facts.

This week, how can you use your body language, your tone, and your word choice to ensure that people FEEL listened to?

You may find that getting them to understand you wasn’t all that important after all.

2 thoughts on “Stephen Covey was Wrong?

  1. Warren Young

    This understanding of the need people have to FEEL good about their encounter with you
    is fundamental to connection; but it is often
    overlooked or worse yet ignored.

    Tim, thank you for refining that fifth habit.
    You’ve added clarity and increased its
    effectiveness—for those who put it to use.

    Keep up the good work,

    Warren Young

  2. Pingback: 7 Ways to Deal with a Chronic Complainer |

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