Why is it that your work colleagues always jump down your throat when you suggest something at work?
Why is that your former partner always seems to misunderstand what you are trying to say?
Why do your children ignore you?
What is going on?
We are talking here about one of the most powerful building blocks and core skills of good communication.
Something that many people, in conflict, need to get much better at. Something that most people can only do for about 17 seconds at a time.
The thing that opens up communication and conversations, the thing that can help people quickly resolve conflict
It is ability to listen.
No, not just listen but listen to understand at a deep level AND ensure that the person being listened too feels understood at a deep level.
The irony is that IF you really want to feel listened too and understood, the person, you are in conversation or conflict with, will first need to feel listened to and understood, at a deep level.
This can be a very rewarding skill to develop.
Here’s the thing, the more the other person feels that you understand them the more likely they are to make an effort to understand you, when they are asked to.
So, if your aim is to be listened to, you know what you have to do!
When I talk about understanding the other person at a deep level, I mean understanding their standpoint, what they feel so strongly about and why, uncovering their core concerns, the things really bothering them, the things REALLY IMPORTANT to them.
If you make the effort to do so, you may be amazed at how persuasive and influential you can be.
If you want to be understood, seek first to understand.
Don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying that this will be easy, especially if you are ‘stuck in a heated argument or long standing dispute with them, where you are feeling judged and constantly challenged.
But, someone must start.
One of you must take the initiative. One of you has to start the seesaw of reciprocity, as I call it.
If you really want to break through an existing cycle of conflict you will need to find it in yourself to discover what is causing the other person to react and behave in the way they are.
This may involve having to keep your own self- justification and blame narrative in check when every fibre in your body is crying out for you to react.
Only then, can you ask them to offer you the same courtesy. After all, you have earned it, surely.
Indeed, if you are able to do this, you mobilise a very powerful human instinct. The instinct of reciprocity.
You create an obligation to be heard, an obligation that needs to be met or, if not met, resisted.
Whether met or resisted by the other person, by listening to them, exercising self restraint, and taking the time to ensure that they feel understood, you create a powerful recprical obligation making creating a sense of accountable to you, or at least to listen to you, with the same effort and intensity.
You have earned this right.
Well, not quite.
Let’s look in a little more detail at the 5 core skills that partner the listening skill.
The first core skill involves the capacity and need for self restraint, requiring you to find an effective personal strategy to help you supress any tendency to react to what you are hearing. I would say, the harder you are likely to find this the better prepared you will need to be. More about preparation in another video.
The second skill, involves the ability and need to demonstrate authentic curiousity, in the drive to uncover the core unmet concerns driving the other person’s behaviour.
The third core skill, involves the ability and need to ask sensitive but probing questions to elicit and uncover the core unmet concerns, really bothering the other person.
The fourth core skill. and a very powerful one at that, is the ability and need to authentically acknowledge what you are hearing, seeing or sensing. This involves the skill of reflecting back the key emotions being expressed around the core concerns being uncovered so that the other person realises that you ‘get where they are coming from’.
To be clear, I am not suggesting that you have to feel the emotions they are experiencing, but you do have to understand ‘where they are coming from’ and let them know, that you understand.
The fifth core skill is, the ability and need to move the difficult conversation on to focus you and the other person on resolving the conflict with powerful pre-supposition problem solving questions.
If, you are able effectively practice these 5 core skills, beginning with the core skill of listening with a calm, centred, curious, empathic, open and non-judgemental mindset and approach, you will be amazed at the breakthroughs you can achieve.
It all begins with your own ability to listen, so listen well and see where it takes you.