Seek first to understand, then to be understood. ~Steven R. Covey.
The first time I heard the term, “listening with a heart-shaped ear,” was when my wife Carol and I were working with a group called Engaged Encounter. This is an organization that provides a weekend experience for engaged couples preparing for marriage. The weekend includes a series of presentations (sharing) by married couples. The engaged couples are separated and requested to write answers to prepared questions on each topic session. Then they are rejoined as a couple to share their answers. Carol and I worked in this ministry for over 15 years and the positive effect on our own marriage was wonderful.
Listening with a heart-shaped ear meant that the listener went far beyond the words being spoken. It meant totally focusing on what the other person was saying. The listener would look into the heart of the person and really try to understand them, as well as hearing what they were trying to communicate. I can only imagine the positive impact there would be if the business and political worlds started listening to each other with heart-shaped ears. The result would be exceptional. In my own marriage with Carol, listening makes for good communication, and that makes for a solid foundation for a great marriage or in any relationship.
The truth is that all of us at one time or another are challenged in really listening. We may at times listen with our answer running. This means that we already have decided what we want to say and we just wish the person would finish talking so we could get started. We may have something really good to say, but because we are already thinking of what we will say, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to really hear the other person. The problem with this is that the other person may have something else to share that is really valuable and you may miss out on the opportunity to learn and even be smarter on the whole topic.
Listening involves thinking and it is very easy to start thinking about what someone says without listening to the next thing they say. It is a challenge even in the best circumstances to always hear the other person.
The value in listening goes far beyond just our own understanding. It allows the speaker to feel confident that they have been understood. A person who is understood is more likely to try to understand your reply or thoughts. Respected author, Steven Covey, believed this whole area was so important that he made it one of the seven habits of highly effective people in his bestselling book, where he wrote: “Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.”
Try to remember a time when you felt like someone really understood what you were saying. Those are special times. You really feel like you have value as a person. You feel assured that you have something to offer. The next time you are listening to someone, just remember a time when another person gave you the gift of listening.
It has been said that we have two ears but only one mouth. It is a statement on which should have the bigger role in our lives. For the best possible relationship with another person, listen with a heart-shaped ear.