The chapter was called "Seek first to understand and then to be understood."
The author, recently passed away Stephen R Covey, passionately put over his point (I was listening to his CD in my car) in a way that made me replay it several times.
It was simple and went something like this: Stephen was on a train. Two boisterous young boys were tearing up and down the carriage, shouting and knocking newspapers out of commuters hands as they barged past. Their Dad sat in his seat, ignoring the problems they were causing. He did not say a word to them. Other passengers were tutting and frowning.
After a while Stephen leaned over to the Dad and suggested he controlled his children.
The reply came from the Dad - he didn't know how to handle them, what to say, what to do. They had just come from the hospital where their Mum had passed away.
Suddenly our perceptions change. We understand. How we react when we understand is different than when we do not.
My experience recently was to misjudge someone who was on a business course. Let's describe his contribution as over-enthusiastic. Two days later I found out he was a recovering alcoholic. This course was a brave move to take control of his life. He came up with a business idea and he started it that same week. Once I understood him, I admired what he was doing. I wanted to support him.
How often are we obsessed with trying to make ourselves understood before understanding the person we are dealing with?
Did I learn anything from that self help book? Yes I did, but it took a real life incident to make it sink in.
The excellent book is 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey