Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, lists habit number 5 as “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”. He places a lot of emphasis on empathic listening and deep listening, without judging, analysing, problem solving or putting your point of view forward. Stephen later goes on to describe the importance of presenting your ideas and arguments “in the context of a deep understanding of their paradigms and concerns”. That is you need to fully understand the audiences point of view, their needs, their pains and their concerns. When you do this, your ideas will be significantly more credible and more likely to be considered, adopted and utilized by the audience.
I often describe the importance of preparation in preparing to undertake public speaking and the most important part of preparation is to know your audience. I talk about the American Indian saying that “you must walk 30 moons in your enemies’ moccasins before you can understand them”. This is completely in line with what Stephen Covey is saying and it comes down to knowing your audience before speaking to them and know your audience before preparing a presentation. It is the empathic listening that helps you gain this deep understanding.
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood”.