Seek First to Understand


Pizza?!  Y’all are ordering two pizzas? All of you are getting pizza, and none of you is going to try anything from Jamaica, Venezuela, or any of the Asian countries represented?

We were eating lunch at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market in Atlanta, and I thought I had prepped my students ahead of time to take advantage of the wonderful opportunity that we had to eat something new, authentic, and interesting, and here they were ordering stuff they eat every Saturday night!  I couldn’t believe it, and I let them know.

“Seek first to understand and then to be understood.”  Stephen Covey touts the value of this practice in his famous book for “effective people.”  But I have had plenty of opportunities to experience its value in person.  Particularly in the times that I’ve disregarded it.  As I walked away from my students to order my Venezuelan empanada, I immediately felt the regret of having unloaded my perspective on my students without trying to hear or understand theirs.  I didn’t take time to listen to them, and as a result, I doubt they heard much from me.

Later, I took the time to ask them some questions, and we were able have a beneficial conversation about why the pizza ranked higher than the arepas.  I hope that someday they will be more eager to try new foods, but in the meantime, I will keep working on cultivating the habit of understanding before being understood.

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