Tuesday, September 25, 2007

In campus talk, Stephen Covey stresses communication at California University of Pa.

An author and leader in the field of "effective and inspirational leadership" visited California University of Pennsylvania Tuesday as part of the university's effort to promote and expand its leadership initiatives. Stephen R. Covey, author of "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," spoke to an audience of several hundred people in the auditorium of the university's Steele Hall. University President Angelo Armenti said Covey's presentation was the first event presented in the newly renovated building. "We are so proud of the relationship that our university has developed with Dr. Covey," Armenti said. Covey received an honorary doctorate from the university in 1997 and was the university's keynote speaker at commencement that year, Armenti said. Covey's presentation focused on the importance of effective communication in building strong and successful interpersonal relationships. Because the family is the foundation of any society, Covey said, effective relationships begin at the family level. "No society will ever become greater than the strength of its families," he said. "Our most important roles are the roles we play as fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles. Our most important roles are family roles." In order to build strong family relationships, Covey said family members first must learn to communicate effectively. He added that the most important skill in learning how to communicate effectively is how to listen empathically, which he also pointed out is probably the most difficult skill to learn. "Probably less than 5 percent of us have ever been trained on how to listen empathically," Covey said, "and yet we've all been given years of training on how to read, write and speak." Covey defined empathic listening as the ability of one person to listen within another person's frame of mind. He went on to present what he called a "listening continuum," which he described in four stages. In the first stage, Covey said, the listener is ignoring the speaker. In the second, the listener begins to pretend as if he or she is listening to the speaker. The third stage in Covey's continuum is selective listening, where the listener's attention is sparked by words or phrases that remind him of something else. In the fourth stage, which Covey called attentive listening, the listener pays close attention to the speaker's words, but is still within his own frame of mind. Not until the listener can escape his own frame of mind and begin listening in that of the other person can he truly achieve the goal of empathic listening, Covey explained. In addition to his presentation on empathic listening, Covey also talked about the importance of holistic existence, which he called the "four needs of life." "To live, to learn, to love and to leave a legacy are truly the four needs of life," Covey said. "To live is to have a healthy body; to learn, a healthy mind; to love, a healthy heart; and to leave a legacy is to have a happy and healthy spirit." Covey also spoke briefly on leadership. "Leadership is not a position, it's a choice," he said. "Pay the price to make a contribution." Before his public presentation, Covey took part in a panel discussion with some members of the university and local media. He fielded questions regarding his philosophies and beliefs, and he offered advice to college students and recent graduates who might be unsure of their future. "I think a person can find their voice and make a great living doing it," Covey said. "Discipline and passion are governed by vision. When your need, conscience, talent and passion overlap, that is when you've found your voice." Covey also spoke about the importance of building mutual respect and civility and producing what he called "third alternative" solutions to certain problems. He cited a leadership summit he attended in which spiritual leaders of Islamic, Jewish and Christian faiths discussed ways to build better relationships with the world. Covey is working on a new book, a section of which he said he plans to devote to California University of Pennsylvania. Armenti said Covey will host a monthly "webinar" where he will discuss his philosophies in greater detail. -(TR, 16 Sep 07)

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