My all-time favorite habit of Stephen Covey’s classic book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is habit #5: ‘First seek to understand, then to be understood.’

Referring to this habit Covey says this is, “the single most important principle I have learned in the field of interpersonal relations.”

Now you might be asking yourself what this habit has to do with marketing. Well, growing a business is about developing relationships with people so it has everything to do with how you market your business.

We tend to prescribe solutions before we have diagnosed the problem. The key is to find out what people really want and need before we propose a solution.

Who can you try to understand first?

– Your prospective clients

– Your current clients

– Your inactive clients

– Your partners and colleagues

Consider this quote from the book:

“Next to physical survival, the greatest need of human being is psychological survival –to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated.”

So if that’s the case, why don’t we try to understand our clients before we endeavor to be understood and share our solutions? Here are a few ideas:

* Because we all desperately want to be understood first.

* We’ve never been taught how to truly listen.

* We’re afraid it would just take too much time to listen and understand first.

The truth is, learning how to really listen and understand someone else first is a skill that can be developed. You just need to be conscious that it is something that you want to do and then begin.

And listening first actually takes less time in the long run because you’ll be clear about the situation from the very start.

7 Reasons to First Seek to Understand

1. The sooner you get to the truth with someone, the sooner you’ll know if it’s the right decision to move forward or move on. This is good for both of you.

2. You won’t waste time pursuing relationships that aren’t the right fit.

3. You’ll have more time to focus on new business opportunities that you will miss if you’re spending time trying to be understood first.

4. Besides being helpful to you, it also helps the people you relate to because they get to experience being understood (which is what we all want so badly).

5. You avoid damaging a relationship due to unintentional misunderstandings or miscommunication.

6. It reduces the chance of making assumptions.

7. It reduces the chance of taking things personally.

OK, are you sold on this idea and want to know how to do it? The most important part of this is to be completely authentic and sincere about wanting to understand. It won’t work if you use this as a ‘technique’ to get what you want.

To really understand someone you must listen to the person with their point of view in mind, to empathize (not sympathize) with their situation. You need to be open and honest and come from a place of genuine caring. Covey refers to this kind of listening as ‘Empathetic Listening.’

And the cool thing about seeking to first understand is that it is something that is within your control. It is a decision you can make about how you want to interact with your prospective clients and others.

What do you have to lose? Give it a try and see what happens. You may discover a much more effective and meaningful way of connecting with people in your business.

I hope you’re starting to see how first seeking to understand will save you time and energy with your marketing. It will also help you create deeper, more rewarding relationships. And ultimately, a more profitable business.

© Stephanie Ward

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