Seeking Synergy

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As we continue the exploration of the 7 habits of highly successful people as written by Dr. Stephen R. Covey, we come to habit number six, synergy. The definition of synergy is as follows: the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.

When we have differing points of view, as is the case in many aspects of society today, problem solving WITH others of different points of view becomes somewhat of a unicorn in communication. Meaning it is mythical and seldom seen. Many of us spend a great deal of time trying to convince others to our point of view and synergy is nowhere to be seen.

Synergy requires creative cooperation. Working together, being open-minded, and working to find solutions to problems.

Synergy is however not the same as compromise. A compromise is rarely an even trade. One side will likely get more than the other. Synergy is one plus one equals three, or fifty, or millions or more.

If we are willing to be truly open setting aside biases, prejudices, past hurts and truly listening to what someone else has to say, we can find new ways of seeing things. New approaches to problems begin to emerge just from the addition of different points of view.

Synergy starts with differences to which the next step that must be added is be willing to listen. Clarify what the end goal needs to be. Explore the alternatives – all the alternatives. Seek first to understand (listen) and then to be understood (heard).

Being in synergy can be manifested in several ways. Having a change of heart, seeing things in a new way, feeling that the relationship has been transformed, and ending up with an idea or result that is better than what either one started with.

Do you truly value differences with others in the mental, emotional, and physical realms? Or do you just wish everyone would agree with you so you can all get along (on your terms only)? Are you willing to look at any of the things you say you believe most strongly in willingly, openly, with others who have differing opnions? Or do you wish only to drown out all opposing viewpoints?

Many people mistake everyone believing the same way as unity and sameness for oneness. If we expect everyone to believe, look, and live the same as we do, then we are not trying to achieve unity but forced compliance.

Synergy is better than my way or your way. It’s our way. ~ Dr. Stephen R. Covey

Understand and Be Understood

Habit number five in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Dr. Stephen R. Covey is Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. It sounds complicated, but it is actually fairly simple in practice and absolutely necessary to effective communication habits.

How many times have you found yourself in conversation with someone and you are only thinking about what you are going to say when they ever stop talking? Concentrated on your reply and not what they are actually saying.

Often times, we may not even hear what they are saying, especially in highly emotional conversations. The reply in our heads coupled with anger or fear or sadness blocks out every word they say to us. We wait only to pounce with our heated reply or disagreement or accusation.

Many times, we seek only to be understood first. We want people to hear us. We want to make our point. What the other person has to say takes away from our time to be understood, or so we believe.

We can listen selectively, focusing on words that make us more angry, more sad, more afraid and leaving out the context of what someone is saying entirely. We can filter everything someone else is being said through our own frame of reference and experience. Not hearing anything about the other person’s personal story in the words.

We can jump to conclusions about what someone else means by their words before they even finish speaking. In today’s climate this is particularly true when what one person says does not line up with what another person thinks or feels, immediate judgment comes without ever taking the time to actually listen to the other person.

We respond usually in one of four ways when we are not seeking to understand. We judge what is being said and then either agree or disagree. We ask questions but only from our own frame of reference. We give advice or solutions to the problem. We analyze the other person’s motives and behaviors based on our own experiences or beliefs.

When we seek to understand we intentionally listen to the other person, even to the point of making notes if we have to in order to actually hear and see what they are saying. When they are finished speaking, we paraphrase or repeat back what we heard them say such as “I heard you say” or “I hear you saying”. And then asking them if what you say you heard is actually what they said.

Without intentional listening, repeating back, asking for correction if what we repeat back is not what they said, and then responding with I statements, we end up with reactive responses having actually heard nothing from the other person. This results in misunderstanding, blame, and repetitive arguments. Common ground is nowhere to be seen and no one understands anything about the other person.

Deep communication is intentional. It requires effort and the ability to resist being reactionary. But practiced over time this habit can transform relationships.

“If I were to summarize in one sentence the single most important principle I have learned in the field of interpersonal relations, it would be this: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” ~ Dr. Stephen R. Covey

Think Win-Win

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Habit number four in the 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Dr. Stephen R. Covey is Think Win-Win. This may be the most difficult habit to do and to write about in our current climate.

Think Win-Win is about cooperation. It is about each person having mutual benefit. Agreements are made to support mutual benefit to both sides.

As I was contemplating what I would write, I could not help but think of today’s climate of very rigid sides of issues. It seems that many feel that any cooperation is unacceptable. It appears that many feel that mutual benefit is not possible.

In our current climate it seems that many feel there must be a single winner – one viewpoint must win without consideration of any other point of view. And this is on ALL sides of the issues. There is no win-win in the conversations I have heard lately.

To think win-win, a person needs these three characteristics:

  1. Integrity: Standing by your true feelings, values, and commitments.
  2. Maturity: Being able to express your feelings and ideas with courage AND consideration for the ideas and feelings of others.
  3. Abundance Thinking: Believing that there is enough for everyone.

In the second characteristic, consideration for the ideas and feelings of others is where I think in our current climate we struggle. Tolerance is a word that many use quite freely. Many claim to be tolerant of all people, all views, all beliefs, however, some of those very same people are intolerant of any view different than their own.

You cannot have your cake and eat it too. Meaning, you cannot have it both ways. If you claim to be all tolerant, then you must actually be able to consider the ideas and feelings of others with maturity and courage and believing that if everyone has some mutual benefit it makes for a happier society.

Unfortunately, our society has become a win at all costs and make sure the other person loses endeavor. There is no mutual benefit, only power and domination of singular viewpoints or nothing. This results in everyone being the loser resulting in distrust and resentment.

You can apply the think win-win habit to every aspect of your life. In your work life, in your relationships, in your family, in every aspect where mutual agreements are necessary and beneficial.

This habit can be very difficult to implement. It can be very hard to let go of the idea that if someone else wins you lose. With mutually beneficial agreements and courageous, empathetic discussion, both parties can win and perhaps reach a deeper understanding, peace, and happiness.

“In the long run, if it isn’t a win for both of us, we both lose. That’s why win-win is the only real alternative in interdependent realities.” ~ Dr. Stephen R. Covey

Be Proactive

The first habit of highly successful people

Proactive — adjective — (of a person, policy, or action) creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey was published in 2004 and has sold over 15 million copies. It is still one of the most highly ranked books for sale on Amazon.

This book has offered millions of people ways to change the way they think, respond, and create success in their lives. The first habit is to be proactive.

Most people are reactive. They skip right over the very few seconds between thought and response where the choice resides. Many believe that they have no choice to make and they are compelled to respond in the way they do.

The responses are attributed to everything from the weather to politics and every possible thing in between. People who are reactive feel that they are not responsible for their reactions.

It is raining and rain always makes me depressed.

Reactive people attribute their responses to things they cannot control. If they could control them, then they would not affect them, right?

Reactive people lack the ability to be response-able. Read that again. The lack of the belief that they are ABLE to respond differently. They are ABLE to choose their response.

All it takes is a very few brief seconds or moments to stop at the thought to make a choice before proceeding to the response. And after you make the choice to respond, being responsible for the outcome of that choice. You decided to respond in that way not to allow something or someone to make that choice for you.

Many people think that their responsive behavior is a choice and that they are making the choice. This is because for years of their lives they have responded to certain things in the exact same way over and over every time. This trains their brains to believe this response is their choice. When it clearly is just a reaction.

Reactive people live in the circle of concern — worry over things they cannot control. Their reactions are to those things they fear they cannot control. By reacting to these things their circle of concern grows bigger and bigger.

People who are proactive go from thought/event to critical thinking (choice) to actively making a choice. Proactive people live in a circle of influence — what things do I actually have control over.

He makes me so mad is reactive. I control my own feelings is proactive.

Building positivity into the circle of influence expands the circle. The more we acknowledge responsibility for our thoughts the more we can choose to control the outcome.

Proactive people decide what happens to them moving forward instead of allowing what has happened to them to keep them stuck. Proactive people realize it is the thought itself that needs to be acted upon not the outside force that is blamed for the thought.

Between stimulus and response there’s a space. In that space lies our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom. ~ Stephen Covey