Archive for 2007

Seek First to Understand

Today is Town Meeting Day for much of New England. In Vermont, the first Tuesday in March has long been designated as the day voters come together to approve—or defeat—budgets, adapt resolutions, elect officers and more. It’s an interesting process and one that seems to work pretty well.

It doesn’t all happen in a friendly, understanding and considerate manner. Debates can sometimes be heated and go on for long periods of time. It can be messy, and it can take quite awhile to come to agreement on the issues.

This is not a representative democracy. It’s direct democracy in action.

And I can’t say that it’s particularly efficient, but when it comes to good relationships, efficiency is not important.

Town Meetings are a great example of people with divergent views coming together by listening to all the different opinions and then letting the majority rule. People do get heard. People have a chance to hear their neighbors’ positions—what they think and how they feel.

It is, in my opinion, a good example of Covey’s habit of Seek First to Understand, then Be Understood. It’s not perfect. It takes longer than simply voting an issue up or down, but it seems to me that it’s worth it.

We need to do our best to understand the needs and wants of others, agree where we can and respectfully disagree when we can’t.

How do YOU do on the Seek-First-to-Understand-Then-Be-Understood principle?

I know I have to work on it diligently.

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