Hello! Kevin here with another episode of the Feel Good English Podcast. This is part five in the 7-part series, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I’m going to talk about effective ways for building valuable and honest relationships with the idea of the better that our relationships are, the more value we can bring and the better that we can serve others. And specifically focusing on business, being able to know how to serve others in the best way possible is a great way to achieve business success.

So, I’m going to talk about what we want to do here to understand other people before trying to make them understand us. And I’m going to give you five ways in which you can improve relationships with others and bring the most value to others if that’s what you’d like to do.

So, listen up. Go through this. At the end, I’ll talk about some vocab that you’ll find in this episode that might be a little unfamiliar to you. And here we go!

Habit number five. Habit number five is seek to understand, then to be understood. Before we can offer advice or suggest solutions or effectively interact with another person, we have to fully understand where they’re coming from. And this is all about how to best serve others. And if you’ve studied business at all or even with relationships, a very sure way to be successful is to figure out how to serve others.

So, if you don’t do this, if we don’t seek to understand others first before we try to make them understand us, then we prescribe a solution before understanding the problem. We prescribe a solution based on our own lives, our own history, our own dilemmas in the past.

And I think just naturally, as humans, we think everybody is alike. We think everybody is the same. Or a lot of us by default think that we’re all the same.

So, we often tell people to do things based on what we’ve done to solve our problems. But that doesn’t always work. And often, that’s not what they need.

So what are we doing here? What are we trying to do? We’re trying to become an empathetic listener. Empathy, empathetic listener, somebody who uses empathy to communicate with others. So, we must learn how to become an empathetic listener, an empathetic listener. We must use empathy in our communication with others.

Empathy means when we’re talking to somebody, when you’re relating to somebody, you are able to feel their emotions. You are able to connect with their emotions – not just the words, but you are able to literally feel what they might be feeling. This is called using empathy. Somebody who is very empathetic is able to understand others through their emotions, and they’re able to relate to the emotions of others.

So, how do we do this? Maybe you don’t think yourself as somebody who is very empathetic. Like me, personally, sometimes I do want to give my advice before I should based on what I think is right or wrong. I do this too much. Maybe it’s my psychological background, I’m not sure. But for me too, I need to become more of an empathetic listener.

And I’m now going to give you five ways that you can do this, five specific ways that you can become more of an empathetic listener to help you understand better before trying to be understood by them.

The first way on how to become more empathetic in your listening, easy, don’t multitask. If you’re talking to somebody, get off your damned phone. Don’t look at your phone. Don’t look at your computer. Don’t try to do something else. Give them your undivided attention.

Look at them. Make eye contact (not in a crazy way, but at least enough eye contact). And give them your undivided attention. Stop thinking that you can listen, and then also search your Instagram and like pictures of bodybuilders. You can’t do those things at the same time.

So, that one is simple. Drop your damn phone. Look at the person you’re talking to.

Number two, be non-judgmental. Try not to connect what they’re saying with things that have happened to you. Try not to use your own judgments if it’s right or wrong. I do this all the time. Naturally, I hear what somebody is talking about, and then I want to connect it to something that’s happened to me, or I have an opinion of what’s right or wrong. This is hard, but try to start being non-judgmental. Just listen to the words, and try to follow along.

Number three, read the speaker, observe their emotions. That’s what I mean by “read the speaker.” Observe their emotions, not just words.

This can be tricky if you’re learning English. If you’re not a fluent English speaker, it’s a little harder. Howeer, they say that at least 60% (sometimes, I’ve heard 80%) of language is non-verbal, meaning it’s body language. We express what we want to say with our bodies.

And I totally agree with this. I’ve travelled to different countries, not speaking the language or speaking just a little bit of the language. And I could communicate just by paying a lot of attention to what this person was doing with their body and how they were acting. Were they upset? Were they happy? Were they welcoming? Did they want me to leave? Probably all of those things have happened. But it is very important with communication.

So, start reading the emotions. Don’t just focus on the words. And you might find this difficult in the beginning, especially in English, but practicing this will help you. So, focus on emotions too. Respond to the emotions. Don’t just respond to the words.

But if they’re angry or they’re frustrated, respond to those emotions. Don’t just respond with something that’s disconnected. If they’re angry, then respond in a way that would justify their anger. Maybe they’re justified. Don’t judge their emotions.

Number four, be quiet. Don’t feel you need an immediate answer to what they say. Don’t feel that you need to reply as soon as they’re done speaking. Oftentimes, we’re so focused on what we want to say. We’re not even listening. We’re already deciding what we wanted to say as soon as we’re done speaking. We’re waiting for the time when they finish, so we can say what we want to say.

One thing I hate, I hate, is when people don’t let you finish what you want to say, they ask you a question, you start answering, and then in the middle of your answer, they interrupt you. I don’t know why this has happened in certain countries more than others, but it just annoys me a lot. People don’t let you finish one sentence. They’re already saying what they want to next. Maybe they’re nervous, I don’t know, but don’t do that. Listen.

And if you need to pause for a second or two or three after they finish talking, that’s fine. Collect your thoughts. This also allows you to come up with a better reply because you have all of the information instead of five seconds before they’re done speaking, you’re already ready to reply. You didn’t even hear what they just said.

And lastly, number five, ask reassuring questions. If you’re not sure what they said, if you’re confused, if you’re not fully understand what they’re saying, ask them. There’s no problem in this.

And if you’re learning English, if you’re not fluent, if you’re not understanding, then of course you can ask questions. That’s not a stupid thing. It doesn’t mean you don’t speak English well. We should even do this in our own language to learn to do it in English as well. This is natural. This is fine.

And being able to answer questions in a foreign language is very important. This is communication.

And I know some of you are thinking, “It’s hard in English. This stuff isn’t as valid. I’m an English learner. I can’t do this as well because it’s hard for me to understand the words. How am I going to understand the emotions too?”

Well, if you stop thinking about what you were going to say when they’re done speaking, it will give you a lot more energy and time to listen to what they’re saying. Don’t worry about, “Oh, how am I going to reply to this?” Let them speak, listen to them, watch their emotions. Take all that in. This will actually help you form sentences.

I know you’re probably worried while they’re speaking, you don’t understand something, “What am I going to say? What if I sound stupid?” It’s okay, it happens. Just let them speak. And then, come up with your answer. Use them as a situation to practice.

Focus on their body language. Start learning how to react to body language. Some people could do this naturally. I think I’m pretty good at noticing the body language of other people. Other people, I don’t think, do this very well. So, start practicing. Start going online and searching “how to read body language” or just start noticing when you’re talking to somebody. Pay more attention to their body language. This can help you understand people from other places that speak other languages too. Fast English speakers, watch their body language. What do you think are they trying to say?

So, don’t be afraid to take a second or two to formulate your thoughts after they’re speaking. Especially if you’re learning English, don’t worry about it. Take a moment, step back, relax. Come up with something. Don’t feel that you need to speak as soon as they’re done speaking.

The last thing here that you can do is consider that your solutions might not be the best for others. Feel free to offer advice only after you fully understand what they have to say or let them express what they want to say. Let them talk about their problems. Try to understand where they’re coming from before you offer a solution. Fully seek to understand before trying to be understood.

Just a few words for this episode I’m going to define for you. The first one is seek. That is the title of the episode, so that’s an important word here. To seek is very similar to search or to look for. We usually use it in a deeper sense. “I’m seeking the answer to life’s problem” or “seeking to understand someone else.” You’re really searching for and trying to discover the true meaning behind somebody else.

So, you don’t just interchange this with “I’m seeking my pen. I lost my pen, I’m seeking my pen.” No, that’s not necessary. You just say, “I’m looking for…” So seek here is a deeper context. I’m really searching for something. “I’m seeking the career path that will make me the happiest in life.” 

The next word, to prescribe, to prescribe like a doctor prescribes medicine. In this case, you’re prescribing a solution. You’re kind of recommending something to somebody else. So, a doctor recommends you take a medicine. So, to prescribe being a solution or a remedy to something.

Next word, empathy. A great word, empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand somebody else’s feelings and emotions. You empathize with them. You connect with their emotions and their feelings. You’re an empathetic listener.

Empathetic listener means when you listen to somebody, you really can connect with their emotions and their feelings. You’re not just listening superficially, but you’re connecting in a deeper way.

So, that’s a lot of what this episode is about, being an empathetic listener, really trying to understand somebody else before prescribing your solutions to them.

Last one, multi-task. Multi-task is doing several different things at once. So, you’re trying to talk to somebody and you’re looking at your phone checking how many people liked your Instagram photo. That’s multi-tasking. You have work, you’re trying to get a report done, but you’re also trying to whatever. You’re trying to do multiple things at the same time, multi-task. Multi-task is usually not the best way to do things. It’s better to focus on one thing.

Any other questions from this episode, find the episode on SoundCloud. You can comment right on the point where you have a question or FeelGoodEnglish.com and ask me personally.

And there you have it, number five, seek to understand, then to be understood. I think it’s a very important communication skills, relationship skills. Interpersonal skills in the office are so valuable.

So, put these five ways of improving communication to work. Do a little more research. If you want to read the book, go online. Search about empathetic listening, bringing more empathy into your relationships. Got it?

Okay! Joke for the day. A horse walks into a bar, and the bartender says, “Hey, why the long face?”

See you next time!