Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s book is written to serve as an anchor for our lives, “enabling us to live with a sense of consistency amid change”. The habits are based on timeless, universal principles of human effectiveness. If you willing put the efforts in to following the exercises and applying the principles and habits of this book, you will reap powerful benefits in almost every aspect of your life. As the title indicates there are seven basic habits of highly effective people, however, you discover much more about how you choose to look at situations and circumstances. Our paradigms, correct or incorrect, are the sources of our attitudes and behaviors, and ultimately our relationships with others” – Steven R. Covey. Our paradigm is how we see the world; it influences our frame of reference based primarily on our own experiences; we see the world not as it is, but as we are – or are conditioned to see it. Sometimes our paradigms are simply dead wrong; often we feel validated by what other people tell us about ourselves. If we were once told that you are not a good student, good employee or good person, our nature if often to believe those things about ourselves even if they are not true.
Humans naturally tend to live out of their memories and social mirrors which make us insecure and vulnerable; instead, Dr. Covey encourages us to change our self-map by looking internally and finding new ways of thinking. We can shift our paradigm, by make a conscious decisions to change our attitudes and behaviors. Some examples of these decisions could be choosing to have a positive mental attitude, since this doesn’t always come naturally, we have to practice changing our thoughts and reactions until it become a more of a habit. Principles are universal, timeless and never hange; such as, fairness, kindness, respect, honesty, integrity, service and contribution. Like laws of gravity, they are natural laws that cannot be broken; they operate constantly and control the consequences of our choices. They are self-evident and can be easily be validated by almost any individual. For example, integrity and honesty create the foundation of trust essential basis of cooperation for both interpersonal and long-term personal growth and a highly effective Habit number one is “Be Proactive”, very simply stated, however, it is the foundation of all the other habits.
Being proactive is described as last ultimate freedom, a person’s power to choose their own response to any circumstance. If someone treats us badly, it is our choice how we respond, do we choose to be miserable, take out our hurt on our loved ones or the next person that crosses our path? It isn’t always as much what happens to us, but how we respond to what happens to us that identifies us as proactive or reactive. I am able to choose my responses, the power is within me, and therefore, I am now responsible for my reactions.
Habit number two is “Begin with the End in Mind”, this habit places the plans or the blueprints with you. Determine what your desired results are, then proceed to organize and execute around your values to obtain the desired results. Highly effective people have a high degree of self-mastery and self-control that makes it possible to live out effective programs, achieve the end result or goal. While an person may be independent, all goals are not achieved alone, they must develop interdependent relationships. If we want to become effective leaders, we must have a sense of direction, have the end in mind.
Habit number three is “Put First Things First”, understand the structure of where you are going, and then determine how you are going to get there. We will encounter many things in our day to day lives, we have to be able to prioritize and not place value or importance on the things that not necessary at the moment. If distractions are keeping you from achieving your goal, you may need to practice being proactive, reminding yourself of the goal, and repeatedly practice habit number three. Distractions are a part of everyday life, it is extremely important not to be derailed by them which take us off the path towards our desired goal.
We will not be very effective if we consistently manage by crisis, we must plan and execute by putting first things first and not get ahead of ourselves. Habit number four is “Think Win-Win” when dealing and negotiating with other people, look for a mutually beneficial outcome; of course compromise may be a part of the deal. Occasionally, you may have to make the difficult decision of win-win or no deal, which may be the more mature way to handle the situation, because you don’t have to result to manipulation to get what you want.
If you need to influence the other person’s mindset, then you must spend more time in the communication process. Perhaps you may find a third alternative in order for it to have a win-win result. When you study win-win situations, look for mentors or people who are effective, study their behaviors, pay attention to how they interact with others, especially in difficult situations. Often the problem lies in the process not the people, if you look for the win-win scenario, you can often fix the problem.
You will most likely not effective for very long, if you are always looking for the win-lose, eventually people will not want to negotiate or cooperate with you in the future and your effectiveness will diminish. For long term effectiveness, it is necessary to shift your attitude, thoughts and behaviors to value the other person and communicate with respect. Habit number five is “Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood”. This may sound simple enough, but we should look at the basic forms of communications, which are reading, writing, and listening.
Almost all of our lives, we have been taught and have practiced reading and writing, but seldom are we taught how to listen. Most mistakes fall because of failure to honor this principle. The key to influencing others is to first be influenced. When we listen, truly listen, we become somewhat vulnerable, able to be influenced. Listening can be categorized by five basic types of listening. Ignoring, not listening at all, very self-explanatory. Pretend listening, you appear to be listening but your thoughts are elsewhere.
Selective listening, perhaps this happens when someone takes a very long time to get to their point and the listener gets bored. Attentive listening, as a listener, you are engaged in hearing what the other person is trying to say. Empathetic listening, you are not only engaged, but you put yourself in the other person’s place as they convey their message, you begin to understand their paradigm. Empathetic listening requires that you not only listen with your ears, but listen with your eyes, observe the body language and the facial expressions of the speaker.
Reflect what they are feeling, seek to understand, you may find that you are a sounding board to feeling as much as content so they can hear themselves and truly feel heard. Remember to show acceptance and understanding, agreement isn’t always the key; perhaps you need to explain what you are doing, let them know you are trying to understand what they are saying. When you are dealing with emotional material, always remember to go back to empathetic listening, this takes a great deal of internal fortitude to work effectively. Empathy is a powerful skill; however it is not the “be all and end all” to communication.
Basic stages of empathy are first of all to mimic content, listen with your ears what is coming out of their mouth. Rephrase content; use your own words to express the speaker’s content. Reflect feeling, the content isn’t as crucial in this phase, but the emotional message is extremely important. Most importantly, know when not to use empathy, don’t use it as a tool to manipulate someone, but when you truly want to understand the other person and their message. Habit number six is “Synergy”, which is the fruit of habit number four and number five working together.
Synergy is defined as the interaction of multiple elements in a system to produce an effect different from or greater than the sum of their individual effects. If we are practicing habit number one, then we must remember that when we are a part of a team, the team is much greater than the total of all of its members, just as two pieces of wood joined together are much stronger than both pieces of wood independently. Synergy within ourselves is also important; we must employ both the analytical and creative sides of our brain.
If we manage from the left; the left side of the brain deals with parts, then we must lead from the right; the right side of the brain which is more creative and deals with the whole. Management requires us to be more analytical, how, when and where. Leadership is more emotional, requiring us to look at the whole pictures to provide the direction as discussed in habit number two. We should take the time to identify which type of person we are, left brain or analytical vs. right brain or creative, then work to strengthen the other component for a well-rounded way of processing our thoughts.
We are powerfully influenced by our conditioning, so we should remember to use this as we strive to be more effective in our relationships and communications. Habits four, five and six teach us the sequence of problem solving; they must be practiced for us to be good at them. That what we persist in doing becomes easier, this is true for good habits as well as bad ones. Habit number seven is the cultivation of all the other habits; “Sharpen the Saw”. Dr. Covey explains this habit by telling a story. Man one is sawing away on a tree. Man two walks up and asks what are you doing? Man one says can’t you see, I’m sawing down this tree.
Man two says that looks like hard work. Man one says it is. Man two asks how long have you been sawing on that tree. Man one says three hours. Man two says why don’t you just sharpen that saw. Man one says I’m too busy sawing on this tree. This story serves to remind us that while we are busy working away, never giving up, focusing on our goal, there is something else that is very important for us to take time to do. We are truly only in control of our own production capability, so we must regularly, consistently and in a balance way prepare ourselves to be the best that we can be.
We should prepare our bodies physically fit and able to execute the plan we set in motion to reach the goal. Our minds should be fit as well for the mental tasks; plan to sharpen our knowledge, expand the brain so that we can think clearly and utilize as much information as possible to be the most effective person we can be. The spiritual aspect serves as an umbrella to our life. Our greatest battles each day are fought within the silence of our own soul. By settling the inward conflicts that argue with each other, you will find that the public victories will follow naturally.
The emotional well-being is directly related to our social well-being, through our family and friends, we must spend time in this area as well in order for our overall health to function optimally. The intrinsic sources of personal security are completely within your control, they are independent of other people’s opinions of you. Personal integrity, practice your habits so they express your values until they are in harmony. A rich private life, work on your inner peace until you are able to really enjoy being by yourself, with your family and friends. Nature, truly pause long enough to enjoy the beauties of this earth.
Education, strive to continually learn, not just in a classroom. Service through works as well as anonymously, focus on making contributions, be a blessing to the lives of other people, stay active and involved. Sharpen the saw, work a little each day to improve yourself, every decision will be impacted by the work you do to sharpen yourself. Interpersonal Communication Connections Interpersonal Communications: Relating To Others, has provided a great deal of food for thought. Many of us go about our day to day lives without much thought, about the significant amount of communication we are involved in each and every day.
The material covered so far, provides many things to think about and consider as you begin the next interaction or conversation with everyone from your spouse, your child or the cashier in the drive-thru window. You become more keenly aware of the type of communication, the body language, facial expressions and tone of voice when receiving their message. More than just the interpersonal and impersonal communications of the people we encounter every day, you start to notice the non-verbal communications as well. Electronic communications are so common these days that you almost forget how important this type of communication is.
Texting, Facebook, Twitter, email are just a few of the applications of non-verbal electronic communications that we take for granted now. These forms of communication have taken an great deal of the “personal” out of interpersonal communication. Yes, we still communicate person to person or person to persons, using these applications however, the non-verbal cues are missing; the body language isn’t observed, the tone of voice isn’t heard perhaps causing misunderstandings between people more now than ever before.
Perhaps one of the most frustrating developments in the last few years has been the auto correct feature on my cell phone; this alone has probably caused more grief than we will ever know. This seemed to be a great idea, at first, however, my experience has been that it changes my words to new words that create confusion for the intended person and even a few times changed the words to inappropriate words. The need to be understood and interact with others is extremely powerful. To successfully relate to others, either at home, in the workplace or in the community, we must work hard to understand others, so that we too will be understood.
With the tools in the first four chapters of this text book, practice and consistency, I believe I can become a more effective communicator. These will be invaluable habits as I prepare to re-enter the business world and interact with and relate to various types of people. One of the most common issues we deal with on a day to day basis is negativity. Understanding others and adapting to differences, is primarily a matter of perspective. If we become aware of our own perceptions and are other-oriented, we will become more sensitive to those we interact with and perhaps change the negative relationship into a positive one.