In his book the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” The late Stephen Covey wrote of Habit: 5, ‘Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood’

Mr. Covey’s argument is as follows:

Communication is the most important skill in life. You spend years learning how to read and write, and years learning how to speak. But what about listening? What training have you had that enables you to listen so you really, deeply understand another human being? Probably none, right?

If you’re like most people, you probably seek first to be understood; you want to get your point across. And in doing so, you may ignore the other person completely, pretend that you’re listening, selectively hear only certain parts of the conversation or attentively focus on only the words being said, but miss the meaning entirely.”

Our words have to be extraordinary important.  They define the person and our followers. In life, we need to hear, we must want to speak, we want to communicate, and God wants us to be part of His society. So true communication is urgent, for each of us has been in our own personal prison far too long.

God commands us to be open and pleads that the listener be open. Think about it … These past two weeks our nation has witnessed two political conventions, with thousands of supporters. Yet we have not found one person whose heart might have been changed by what was heard. After spending all that money and all those hours, we tell ourselves, “Yeah…we were right all along.”  And follow that with, “Yeah…they’ve been wrong all along.”

People who are closed-minded become annoying and downright boring. We appear smart, but are notably dumb. As F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “High intelligence is to hold two opposing ideas at the same time.”  We, as a nation have yet to master that.

As the year rolls on, each of us has less and less of an opportunity to be changed by someone else. Am I unwilling to be changed by the experience of someone else? If so, then I do not hold true to my faith. I am not open to God’s spirit working in that person. For the first duty of love is to listen. Not because I will necessarily agree, but if I am not open to listen, then I am not open to being changed … by you. Love is being vulnerable … to you.

We are called to be in relationship to those different from us. And it takes courage in listening to others so different, so compelling in their own beliefs. Who are these people? How do they think and what do they feel. Who do I need to be open to that thought? To whom am I willing to change? Who’s perspective am I unwilling to see?  Who should hear this message? Who should hear my message? Is my message right?

In Buddhism, how we communicate is an important part of our practice. Buddhism has precepts that provide a condensed form of ethical practice, and communication is featured as the fourth precept:

Aware of suffering caused by the inability to listen to others and unmindful speech, I vow to cultivate deep listening and loving speech in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or bring suffering, I vow to learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy and hope.”

As my life nears its end, I want each of to live in one another.