“Most people do not listen with…”

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

—Stephen Covey, American educator, author, businessman, and keynote speaker

Photo from Flickr by  Webbstjarnan.SE

Photo from Flickr by Webbstjarnan.SE

Rate yourself on a scale from one to ten, with “one” being very poor and “ten” being outstanding, with regard to your mastery of Stephen Covey’s 5th Habit of Highly Effective People:

First Seek to Understand, then to be Understood

Consider reducing your score by one point if you:

  • Pretend to listen
  • Selectively hear only certain parts of the conversation
  • Miss the meaning of what the person is saying
  • Listen with the intent to reply
  • Filter what is being said through your own life experiences and frame of reference
  • Prematurely decide if what is being said has value, before the speaker has finished

The behaviors listed above are often called autobiographical listening.


To gain true and deep understanding of another required empathetic listening. Add points to your score if you:

  • Give the speaker your undivided attention
  • Are open-minded and nonjudgmental
  • Observe and sense the emotions behind the words being used
  • Are quiet and allow some time for the other person to fully express their view. Open-ended questions may be helpful here to make sure you gain the full depth of their viewpoint
  • Follow clarifying questions with attempts to restate what you believe they said