People have a deep desire:
- To be heard
- To know that others care enough to listen
Listening Transforms The Conversation
Mother has diabetes and needs to conform to a strict diet/exercise. Asserting it to her is not the solution. Nor is explaining how important it is for her to be around her grandchildren.
The real problem in the conversation is the lack of curiosity. Why is it hard for her to exercise?
Listening To Them Helps Them Listen To You
If someone won’t listen to you, you probably are not listening to them.
If you find yourself thinking they are stubborn or don’t understand you, this is likely the problem. They are that way because they realize they are not being heard.
The Stance of Curiosity: How To Listen From The Inside Out
Shift the stance from “I understand” to “help me understand”
Forget The Words: Focus on Authenticity
Your curiosity has to be authentic. People can tell!
The Commentator In Your Head: Become More Aware of the Internal Voice
Focus and pay attention to your internal voice: What you’re thinking and not saying. Not doing so ensures it will block your listening. You cannot listen well without taking care of this.
Don’t Turn It Off. Turn It Up
You cannot turn off your internal voice. Get to know the kinds of things it says. Likely it’ll be having the 3 conversations in your head. Or it will be daydreaming. Or preparing the response.
Managing Your Internal Voice
Negotiate Your Way To Curiosity
Keep reminding yourself:
- The task to understand the other person is harder than it seems.
- If you feel you already understand the other person, you are deluding yourself.
If your focus is to persuade the other, it is not curiosity!
Don’t Listen: Talk
If your internal thoughts overwhelm (pain, joy, betrayal), speak aloud (but don’t blow up). Speaking it is one way to get it out of your head.
State it like: “As much as I want to hear your side, I’m feeling defensive.” This signals you do want to hear. Saying it will make it easier to listen.
If you cannot listen or talk (busy, overwhelmed), state “This is important to me, but we need to find another time to talk about it.”
Three Skills: Inquiry, Paraphrasing and Acknowledgment
Inquire To Learn
If you ask a question, you can tell if it will help or hurt the conversation by why you asked it. The only good answer is “To learn”.
Don’t Make Statements Disguised as Questions
They will usually be heard as sarcastic or mean spirited.
“Are you going to leave the fridge door open?”
“Do you have to drive so fast?”
Make requests/statements about feelings instead.
Don’t Use Questions To Cross Examine
These tend to be oriented towards persuasion, not listening. Extract statements and express them, but not as facts.
Ask Open Ended Questions
Avoid questions with “Yes/No” answers
Ask For More Concrete Information
Get them to be more explicit.
“Can you give me an example?”
“How would that work?”
Ask Questions About the Three Conversations
“Can you say a little more about how you see things?”
“What information might you have that I don’t?”
“How do you see it differently?”
“What impact have my actions had on you?”
“Can you say a little more about why you think this is my fault?”
“Were you reacting to something I did?”
“How are you feeling about all this?”
“Say more about why this is important to you.”
“What would it mean to you if that happened?”
If the answers aren’t clear, keep digging.
Make It Safe For Them Not To Answer
People may get defensive. You can say you’re trying to help and there is no need to be defensive, but people often don’t like that.
Phrase your question as an invitation, not a demand. One can always decline an invitation.
They should always have the choice not to answer.
Paraphrase for Clarity
Check for understanding
Show That You’ve Heard
Signals you’ve heard.
Note: If someone repeats himself often in a conversation, it is a sign he thinks you did not hear. You need to paraphrase more.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
Unacknowledged feelings are a minefield!
Answer the Invisible Questions
“Are my feelings OK?”
“Do you understand them?”
“Do you care about them?”
“Do you care about me?”
Acknowledging kind of answers all of these.
How To Acknowledge
Anything that indicates your struggle to understand the emotional content of what the other person is saying.
If you are accused of lying, don’t defend or say it won’t happen again (fact). Instead, note openly that the other is upset and that it is important to you/them (feelings). This is not a template, but you get the idea.
Order Matters: Ask Before Problem Solving
Acknowledge feelings before moving to the “What Happened” Conversation
Acknowledging is Not Agreeing
What if you don’t agree with the other person? Acknowledge the feelings - it is separate from the “What Happened?” conversation.