Join Fred Kofman for an in-depth discussion in this video Listening in a disarming way, part of Fred Kofman on Managing Conflict.
- There's listening, and there's listening. There's the listening that you experience when someone is reading the newspaper and saying, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm listening." And even though they could probably repeat what you just said, you don't feel like they're listening. You don't feel like their attention is really on you. And then there's a listening where you feel totally received, and it makes your heart sing, it just makes you smile because you feel, "Oh, yeah, they really get it." To resolve the conflict, you need to use the second type of listening.
You need to listen in a disarming way. Let the other person know that you really care about them, that you understand where they're coming from, and yet you validate that their perspective is part of this conversation. They are not excluded. They are actually included as a valid speaker in the conversation. So we'll see how to do that. Well the first step is fairly simple: Be quiet. It's a non-starter. If you interrupt the other person or you speak over them, you can't argue you're listening.
So it takes discipline, but it's not difficult to do. Just keep your mouth shut. Listen to them. Pay attention, don't interrupt them, don't complete their sentences, follow their train of thought, and try to understand. That's step number one. It's very important, but it's only one of many steps. Step number two is when they are speaking, because you are quiet, you need to encourage them. Because if you're just quiet, it's awkward, and the other person doesn't know, they are used to people interrupting them.
So just take that into account, if you are going to be quiet, there's some gestures you can make that will give the other person the impression that you are with them, like nodding or saying "uh-huh," or smiling, or putting the appropriate gesture, given what they're saying, if they're saying something painful like, "Ohh," or if it's funny, you smile, so stay with them, and let them know that you're with them in a very light-touch way. You're not interrupting them. You're simply saying, "uh-huh," you even, you might ask a slight question like "Wow," or "How did you feel about that?" Very simple, encouraging questions for them to continue with the story.
That's step number two. Step number three is periodically, they'll complete an idea. When they complete the idea, you want to check your understanding, and they way you do that is you summarize what they said. And then you check to see if what your summary is accurate given what they wanted to communicate. I can not emphasize this enough. Most people will just say, "Yeah, I got it," but even if you got it, that doesn't give the other person the sense that they were received.
So to give them that idea, you have to summarize what you understood in a way that distills the essence, so it's not parroting, it's not repeating everything they said, but just summarizing in one or two short phrases, "This is what I got. "The essence of your argument is this." And then you say, "Did I get that right?" And it's such a gesture of respect to ask the other person if you got it right, because what you're telling them is that they have control over what they say. You're not going to twist it.
You're not going to make up your own story about them. You're really wanting to get their story. So you're asking them, "Is that right?" They might say no, not because you are misstating their words, but they might say no because they didn't really say what they wanted to say, or something is missing. That's super good. So if they say, "No, no, not quite," say, "Please, tell me more." So then they tell you again, and then you summarize again, but you stay in that until they say, "Yes, that's what I wanted to say." And the fourth step is to simply acknowledge that makes sense.
It's not what I think, but I understand why that makes sense to you, because now you've explained it to me. So to summarize this, first, be quiet and listen. Second, encourage them. Third, summarize and check. And fourth, validate their reasoning. Those four steps will give the other person a very deep impression that you are connected with them, that you care about them.
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