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The 7 Habits: Godpreneurs Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

This post is the 8th in a series of posts where I've been studying the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey from a Christian entrepreneur’s perspective, and I'm summarizing and Biblically backing up each of the seven habits. Scroll to the end of this article for links to the entire series.


Welcome back to my series that summarizes and gives a Biblical perspective to each of the seven habits laid out in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

In my last post, I discussed Habit 4: Think Win/Win. For entrepreneurs, that habit is to seek to allow clients, employees, or business partners involved in a conflict or negotiation to feel as if they’ve “won.” Win-win thinking in business is an application of the Golden Rule: "Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them" (Matthew 7:12).

Win-win thinking is an important part of our Godpreneurial journey. The more we become like Christ, the more God will want to use us to deal with some form of interpersonal conflicts happening around us. This requires balancing consideration for the needs of others, with the assertiveness to show up and hold space in our faith. The combination of consideration and assertiveness is what gives rise to spiritual maturity.

Habit 5 — “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood” — helps us develop the consideration side of the equation. Let's dive into Habit 5.

Imagine calling a patent lawyer and having the lawyer listen absentmindedly to the first few seconds of your idea for an invention before announcing, “I’ve heard enough,” and handing you a proposal.

Or what if my virtual assistant staffing agency gave you a plan, without bothering to ask what your business was or what your staffing needs are, claiming that since we are experts at staffing, we know what will work for your company?

You probably wouldn’t put much trust in either of our services.

Though these examples sound surreal, we actually often behave very similarly in our businesses, particularly when talking with others. We don’t really listen to what our prospects, employees, or business partners have to say and instead project our own situation onto them, coming up with quick solutions that we can "prescribe" to them.

This could be particularly troublesome for sales because if we can't make consistent sales, we cut off the lifeblood of our business - incoming revenue.

In general, most failed sales proposals come from a lack of listening to the prospects' problems, since people usually only trust someone’s recommendation if they feel their situations have been fully understood.

What if God designed business in a way where if we aren't empathetic and we don't listen to others, then doors close. What if that was the natural consequence God set up for a person who is more concerned for their own success than the success of another?

As Christian entrepreneurs, the Bible teaches us the importance of empathetically listening to others before offering our advice. Proverbs 18:13 says, "He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him." This means that we should take the time to hear what someone is saying before we offer our own thoughts or opinions.

James 1:19 also emphasizes the importance of listening: "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry." This verse encourages us to be patient and understanding when listening to others.

In addition, Proverbs 17:27 says, "He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit." This verse encourages us to be thoughtful and considerate when offering our advice.

The Bible emphasizes the importance of actively listening to prospects, employees, and business partners, and taking the time to understand their perspective before offering your own advice or opinions - seeking first to understand, then to be understood.

So if you want to be respected as a listener of your client's needs and a giver of advice to your employees, you need to develop the skill of empathic listening. This necessitates a change of paradigm from "I’m listening so that I can provide an answer" to "I’m listening so that I can really understand the person in front of me."

Tips for Listening Empathetically

Empathic listening means trying to get inside the other person’s frame of reference so we can understand them both intellectually and emotionally.

First, we have to recognize that the enemy doesn't want us to empathetically connect with others and wants to keep us in selfish mode, focused on our own needs. Pray for the holy spirit to take over so God can show up in the conversation.

Once we're connected to our holy spirit, we need to try to understand things the way they themselves do, instead of trying to fit their perspective into our own.

How do we do that? We ask questions.

So simple, yet we often don’t do it because we’re overly confident in our ability to understand what others are thinking and what they need. We want to tell when we really need to listen.

After we've asked a question, we need to be quiet and really listen. Active listening takes work and time, however, it’s well worth the effort.

By seeking first to understand, we'll be in a better position to find Win-Win solutions to interpersonal problems and Win-Win opportunities for our prospective clients. Empathetic listening increases the trust in our relationships significantly, and God can bless our circle of influence by expanding it.

Imagine if the marketplace was full of God-first entrepreneurs who take time and effort to master this skill. If we all learn to listen in a truly empathic way, we'll notice that many people are fully prepared to open up to us and to reciprocate by considering our opinions and advice. They just need a good, appreciative listener before they can do so.

See how the 4th habit of thinking win-win works synergistically with the 5th habit of considering others before ourselves? This is a nice segue to Mr. Covey's 6th habit of highly effective people - Synergize.


Read the Whole Series: A Christian Entrepreneur's Perspective on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

I pray you enjoy the series as much as I enjoyed creating it!

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