THE HIGHLY EFFECTIVE FAMILY
By Richard (Dick) Innes
Steven Covey, highly acclaimed author of the number-one best seller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (which has sold more than ten million copies) in his new book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families,* shows how to apply these proven principles to build a strong, close family.
Habit One: Be Proactive. One of my kids, who is still living at home, had a choice of continued family support should he go on to higher education after graduating from high school or go to work and start supporting himself. He chose the latter but wasn’t enthusiastic about the “start supporting yourself” idea. He finally got a part-time job and then quit. I was upset and felt like blasting him because I thought he had been irresponsible.
I started to get mad and realized that this wouldn’t help. I decided to be proactive in a positive way rather than reacting in a negative way. I asked him to explain what happened and how he was feeling. When he realized I cared, he wanted to talk things over. I encouraged him by reminding him I had heard several times that he was a good worker. We both agreed that it may have been a good thing he quit because he could now look for a better job.
Habit Two: Put First Things First. As a business or an individual needs to have a mission statement—a clearly defined statement of purpose—to be successful, so does a family. In defining a family mission, it is important to include the children and ask what they want the family to be and achieve. The mission statement needs to be written out and as the children get older and the family more experienced, it can be updated.
“The number one destroyer
of families is the inability to
resolve conflict creatively.”
Habit Three: Put First Things First. Because of the pressures of living in today’s world, the family needs to prioritize responsibilities. If this isn’t done, chances are that instead of the family making “things” happen, things (usually negative things) will happen to the family. To achieve this goal, Covey’s family felt their most important commitment was to set aside one night every week to be together for “planning, problem-solving, teaching and fun.
“Habit Four: Think “Win-Win”. According to research conducted over the past twenty years by the University of Colorado, the number one destroyer of families is the inability to resolve conflict creatively.
Many of us feel insecure to some degree and tend to have a need to win in a conflict. We think our viewpoint is the only right one. Our goal is thus “win-lose”–and nobody wins.
We need to learn how to “fight” fair; that is, how to resolve conflict creatively. We need to appreciate that every family member sees things from their perspective. Therefore, when differences of opinion arise, it is helpful to ask the other/s how they see things and then say how you see things. The truth is usually somewhere in the middle. This makes compromise possible and everybody wins.
Habit Five: Seek First to Understand … Then to Be Understood. A friend shared his experience with me. He said, “On my fairly new job my boss was mad at me because I didn’t do something that was expected but hadn’t been specifically told or asked to do. I was told to drop everything and work on this new project right now. At the time I was working on another project with a deadline which meant I had to work extremely late that night to finish this one.
“I felt unjustly mistreated and felt hurt and angry. However, instead of reacting negatively, I learned something about my boss that helped me understand him and the way he operates better. The next morning I asked him that when he wanted something done would he tell me clearly and let me know when he wanted it done. I wanted to be understood too, but understanding him first helped smooth things out. He admitted he has a hard time asking anybody to do anything for him. I now understand him much better which will help our working relationship.”
To seek to understand the other person first is essential in any relationship and especially so in the family.
Habit Six: Synergize. Webster defines synergism as “combined action … greater in total effect than the sum of their [parts].”
“Two can accomplish more
than twice as much as one.”
King Solomon, reputed to be one of the wisest men who ever lived, summed up “synergism” very wisely when he wrote, “Two can accomplish more than twice as much as one, for the results can be much better. If one falls, the other pulls him up; but if a man falls when he is alone, he’s in trouble. Also, on a cold night, two under the same blanket gain warmth from each other, but how can one be warm alone? And one standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer; three is even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”1
Habit Seven: Sharpen the Saw. This “Habit” “will cultivate all of the other six habits and keep them strong and vibrant. How? Simply by using them in renewing activities–especially, family traditions. That’s what we mean by ‘sharpening the saw.'”
Some of the traditions suggested are regular family dinners, family holidays, serving together in special projects, working together to get things done at home and making these times fun, and worshiping together.
Regarding the latter, it is still true that “The family that prays together stays together.” Research has also shown that families who have a genuine spiritual commitment have a much greater chance of being happy than those that don’t.
According to Covey, practicing these seven habits “can help you to see and communicate more clearly, and will help you to arrive where you, as a family, want to go.”
1. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (TLB).
* The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families, © 1997 Covey Leadership Center, Inc. Published by Golden Books Publishing Company, Inc.