Stop, Drop, and Try to Understand

When you stop saying unkind words, drop your assumptions, and try to understand, you can save others and yourself from unnecessary hurt and regret.

Photo by Luke Ellis-Craven

The advice to “seek first to understand, then to be understood” is one of the key habits in Stephen Covey’s famous book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Although Covey’s book applies this principle to life in general, Elder W. Craig Zwick in his talk “What Are You Thinking?” applies this idea to life as a disciple of Christ.

It is easy, especially in disagreements or other charged situations, to be so focused on our own concerns and ideas that we forget that other people have their own just-as-valid reasons for their words and actions. When we start to get riled up about someone’s actions, we need to stop our negative train of thought before it veers in dangerous directions and causes damage. As we slow our thoughts and stop ourselves from saying any unkind words, we have the opportunity to let go of the assumptions we are making about that person’s thoughts or motivations. Doing these things allows us to open our hearts and sincerely try to understand the other person, helping us move forward in a Christlike way.

Elder Zwick reminds us, “The willingness to see through each other’s eyes will transform ‘corrupt communication’ into ‘minister[ing] grace’” (Ephesians 4:29).This willingness will help us avoid unkind words and actions, and in turn, allow us to become more charitable followers of Christ.

Read Elder W. Craig Zwick’s general conference talk “What Are You Thinking?” for more insight on seeking first to understand.


R. Maren Skidmore, Latter-day Saints Insights


Find more insights

Read “Kindness is a Virtue” by Meagan Knight for more insight on the importance of kindness.

View or read Elder Robert L. Backman’s talk “As I Have Loved You” for more on considering others’ situations and responding with love.

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  1. What a great article—it is so easy sometimes to jump to conclusions instead of taking the time to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. Everyone really is on their own path and we need to try and understand where they are coming from. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. This is so important to remember in today’s society! It’s so easy to be offended because someone has a different viewpoint from us, but just trying to understand where someone else is coming from helps us see others more like Christ would. Awesome article.(:

  3. I love this quote by Brigham Young. “He who takes offense when no offense is intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense is intended is a greater fool.”

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