Human beings are definitely social entities. We all want friends. Most of us want to be with our families. We enjoy our children. We enjoy going out and doing things with our loved ones and friends. The list goes on and on.
The Social Dimension of life is yet another part of the four dimensions of life described by Steven Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This dimension is critical to effectiveness because it requires that we interact with others. We have to listen. We have to make our point. We have to keep our agreements. We have to protect. We have to love others. We have to serve others.
Here are some key points. The habits that address this dimension are Habit 4, Habit 5, and Habit 6. All of these habits compose what Covey calls the public victory. Habits 4, 5, and 6 are dependent on a person’s ability to do Habits 1, 2, and 3. Habit 4 is “Think Win-Win.” Habit 5 is “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Habit 6 is “Synergize”.
Let’s start with thinking win-win. In order for us to survive as a species, we all have commitments and agreements we enter into. To make money, we have to show up to work on time, perform our jobs to our employer’s satisfaction, and interact with others to accomplish the goals of our employer. This requires that we agree to certain things in exchange for certain things. We also make commitments to the phone company, the bank, the utility companies and so on, that we will pay a certain amount of money each month at a specified time for the services these entities provide us. Beyond these common agreements, there are other agreements that we also have committed to.
If you are married, you commit to taking care of your partner, remaining in the relationship, and being true to them. These are the implied commitments we make when we take our vows or holy sacraments. What about chores, paying the bills, fixing the cars, getting up to feed the baby, and all of these little mini-agreements. Win-Win agreements mean that both parties are satisfied with these agreed-upon relationships. The Husband wins and the Wife wins. When we keep our word, perform something nice for our partner without any expectation of reward, we make a deposit in what Dr. Covey calls the “emotional bank account”. Think about it. Isn’t it nice to come home to find a clean home, the smell of a meal permeating the kitchen, and your wife smiling when you walk in the door? To flip the tables, isn’t it nice when you are in bed and sick, to have a husband waiting on you hand and foot to take care of you and your responsibilities while you get well? This is the Win-Win habit.
Seeking first to understand, then to be understood is all about communication. This habit dictates that we listen and speak in the same proportion that we have a mouth and two ears. It is more than active listening (uh huh, etc.), or even reflective listening (so you are saying this, is that right?). It is empathic listening, which Covey describes as really being able to sense what another person is saying by the combination of what they say and more importantly what they do not say. It also involves non-judgement. It is truly offering what Covey calls psychological air. The ability to discuss anything without judgment or interruption until you truly understand what the other person is communicating. Once you have confirmed your understanding, then, and only then, do you get to make your point. Interestingly, Covey states that if you truly follow this method of listening, many times there is nothing to add on your side because you ultimately end up agreeing with them. If not, both parties are both very open to one another’s ideas and are really geared up to committing to a win-win solution to a problem.
Synergy occurs when we can create more together than we could working alone. The best example of this is having a child. A man or women could not produce a baby on their own. They need the opposite to do this. In this case, 1 + 1 = 3. This is synergy. But it is even more dramatic when you have more than one person. In these cases, you could have 1 + 1 + 1 = 5, 10, or 1000. The state of synergy is all about a team of people who interlock like a puzzle. Each contributes their special talents to the team’s efforts to create things that no one or two people could create themselves.
People vs. Things
One more point as we wrap up this week’s installment to the Four Dimensions. Things don’t take a lot of time, but people do. It takes time to build a relationship of trust. It takes time to cultivate a long-term relationship. People need time.
If this article accomplishes anything, I would hope it would inspire people to take care of their relationships. Spend time with your kids, spend time with your wife or husband, spend time with your good friends or lovers. Really spend time with them.
When you go out to eat with a loved one, put the cell phone away. I swear to God. If you go to any restaurant today, it is guaranteed you’ll see two people sitting in front of one another looking at their phones. Not talking, but texting and interacting on social media. Is there anything more upside down than that? I hate to tell you this folks, but the people you think are your friends on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn aren’t. There is a caveat to this: If it’s your Mom, Brother, Sister, cousins, wife or husband, that’s the exception. At best, and I really mean at best, these folks are electronic pen pals. You are not going to establish a meaningful relationship with someone by clicking like on a funny video they posted yesterday or retweeting a quote they posted. You build relationships, meaningful relationships by doing things that are meaningful to them.
Going to a Star Wars movie when your girlfriend isn’t into that isn’t a gesture that builds a relationship unless she is going to please you. Going to a “girly movie” that she will enjoy, even though you don’t, is what I’m talking about. Doing something for someone else because you love them and you know they enjoy those things is what matters. Particularly if you do not expect anything in return. Making your wife a nice breakfast on Sunday morning, even if you can’t cook that well is another example. Bring home flowers just because. Going shopping with her and watching how her eyes light up when she sees a dress she wants or a nice pair of shoes. Going to a coffee shop and letting her tell you about her week and just listening. Spending time with your Mom and Dad, hanging out with your brother, taking your dog for a walk (Animals are people too). Hopefully, you get the gist of this.
Putting this into Action
Plan your week and identify the people you want to spend time with. Real time. Maybe it’s a night out with your wife. Maybe it’s helping your brother with a home project, followed by a home-cooked meal. Maybe it’s playing Scrabble with your Mom or watching a movie with Dad. Whatever your ideas are, plan them out and commit to going and leaving more than enough time to really spend a good amount of time with the important people in your life. It all pays off, believe me. It all comes back to you.
Until next time…