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April 6, 1994

Taking Action

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In order to live the Power of One in the area of understanding, you must work through two issues: perspective and skill.

Perspective

Who are you? Where are you from? What do you believe? The answers to these questions make a huge difference in how we communicate to and receive communication from others. We perceive the world around us through a set of lenses that have been crafted by the history of our human experiences. Understanding ourselves and seeking to understand the perspective of others is vital to good communication, which leads to mutual understanding.

Anyone who wants to understand me must first understand Russell, Kansas. It is my home, where my roots lie, and the source of my strength. –Bob Dole

Fill out the following personal perspective survey:

1. Where were you raised?

2. What type of accent do you have?

3. What race or nationality are you?

4. What religious background do you have?

5. What was your home life like growing up?

6. What is your current family situation?

7. How is your self-image?

8. Are you a passive or aggressive person?

9. How old are you?

10. Are you male or female?

Now add these things (and many more) together and you can develop a grid through which you interpret the world around you. Now imagine the person you are seeking to understand is communicating to you through a grid that has a completely different background! We can be quick to find fault with others when they don’t conform to the patterns or standards we hold. But if we take the effort to get to know another person (as well as understand our own perspective), we often discover that their way isn’t the wrong way- it’s just a different way.

Skill

We all want to be understood and should seek to understand those around us. Much of our ability to understand another person comes from our communication skills. Think through the following skills in seeking to better understand those around you.

● The skill of listening

1. Give the person your full attention and allow him to finish what he’s saying before responding.
2. Turn your brain and your body toward him.
3. Before you respond to him, repeat back what you heard him say to see whether you accurately received his message. Try something like this, “What I hear you saying is……….” If you misunderstood him, then he can correct you before you respond.
4. Maintain eye contact and provide non-verbal signs that tell him you understand.

● The skill of communicating

1. Clearly state what you want, need, and feel. Good communication is accurate and clear. Accuracy is better achieved if you stick with a first- person perspective.
2. Use statements that begin with “I.” For example, “I feel as if no one around here listens to me.” This is a true statement and is better received than “You never listen to me!”
3. Don’t tell a person what she is thinking or begin with an accusation. Let her know what you’re thinking and feeling from your perspective.
4. Always be polite and remember that your tone and non-verbal signals figure into how others understand you.

● The skill of avoidance

1. Avoid jumping to a response before you hear the other person completely.
2. Avoid assuming there is an agenda or hidden motive behind another’s communication.
3. Avoid getting defensive if a person says you’ve offended her or let him down.
4. Avoid a counterattack when being confronted.
5. Avoid thinking that a perspective different than your own is wrong.
6. Avoid thinking that everything has to be fixed—and that you have to do it. Just listen and communicate “I understand.”

The thing most people want is genuine understanding. If you can understand the feelings and moods of another person, you have something fine to offer. –Paul Brock

In order to really understand, we need to listen, not reply. We need to listen long and attentively. In order to help anybody to open his heart we have to give him time, asking only a few questions, as carefully as possible in order to help him better explain his experience. –Paul Tournier

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