The Mike Says...
Wednesday the 11th of August 2010
The fifth habit is one of those so-simple-that-no-one-does-it kind of things. It's the habit of always seeking to understand. This is meant on a person to person level. It's element is empathy.

So much of the time, when we talk, we're just waiting to talk about us. It's not a matter of relating, it just how we were raised to talk. We want our turn to tell our story and we are countered by the other person waiting to tell theirs. When dealing with personal material, however, this is a really easy way to step on someone's heart. When someone we know and love speaks to us about something important to them, we're so used to talking about ourselves, that we glance over their feelings, or feel frustrated that we don't know the right thing to say. How could we? We do not understand them.

To have a real conversation with one another, we have to step into the other person's shoes. To try and see from our their perspective and to let them know we understand. I must warn you, never just say to the words I understand. That's a loaded response. What if you do not, after all, understand. What if you just think you do? It is better is to reflect onto them how you think they feel based on what they told you. Not to repeat like a parrot, rather to say their thoughts in your own words. This is proof that you understand. This is a good way to bring the person to your council and give you a firm grip on their feelings and situation. Worse case scenario, you are mistaken and they try to fix your outlook, furthering your understanding of their thoughts.

I will tell you, right now, that this is rare. I have, in my life, only come across maybe two or three people who honestly do this each time I speak with them. Most of the time, I'm like you, I feel like no one really understands me, my work, or who I am. The worse emails I get are the people who try to tell me who I am based on my work instead of talking to me about it. Most people are, in fact, describing my work as if THEY drew it, which is fine until they try to explain to me my own motives. That's just rude. Don't try and convince me that you know me better than I know myself. I have a very solid image of myself as I'm sure you have of yourself.

Regardless, I find people are friendlier when I follow habit five. Folks like to talk about themselves and tell stories, and this is fine, too. I try to understand them because I inherited my mother's affinity for people and their tales. And in the end, I feel that I DO know them better when trying to reflect their feelings. Weather I do or not, they tend to believe it too. A little empathy goes a long way.

View Mode
Comic #