“The one who understands a matter finds success, and the one who trusts in the Lord will be happy.” Proverbs 16:20 CSB
Habit number 5 in Steven Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is “Seek first to understand before being understood.” As he puts is, “‘Seek first to understand’ involves a very deep shift in paradigm. We typically seek first to be understood.” He’s right. We often are more caught up in our own agendas than others. We want people to understand us, rather than taking time to understand them. I love what Covey goes on to say:
“Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
Do you listen with the intent to understand or the intent to reply? Listening itself is a skill that can be developed. It’s called active listening, when you are “mindfully hearing and attempting to comprehend the meaning of words spoken by another in a conversation or speech” (Business Dictionary). Active listeners are engaged in the conversation. Their body language reflects attention: nodding in agreement, smiling, making eye contact, mirroring facial expressions, attentive posture, eliminating distractions. All of these things help you to listen attentively. And to show you understand what the person is saying, repeat it back to them in your words. This will help you ensure you are understanding what they are saying, and if not, they can help you clarify so that you do.
Even with God. You can active listen with God.
For everyone this will look different. Some people prepare themselves by listening to worship music. Some prefer evenings over mornings. Some people have a special place where they go that allows them to focus on Him without distraction. For me, I prefer mornings. I begin by reading His word, if there is a verse that jumps out at me, I focus in on that. I ask Him, “What are you trying to tell me?” I meditate on it until I feel a nudge in my spirit. For instance this morning, He brought a friend to mind who is having a difficult time. I felt the urge to text her. Before texting her, I verified with Him that it was what He wanted. Then I prayed for the words to say, just like I do when I write these devotionals. I try to stay as focused on Him as possible, taking myself out of the equation (which isn’t easy). Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t. I just pray He’ll bless my efforts either way.
Seek first to understand before being understood, no matter who you are talking too. It will change your relationships, it will change your life. Inevitably, it will help you love God and love others better than you ever have before.