This is a common scenario we face, both within our business and personal lives, where people get so caught up in their point of view that they fail to truly listen to the views of another or to seek a common solution. It ends up becoming a push to determine who is 'right' rather than finding the best result. This creates conflict, can lead to resentment and hard feelings, all of which serve to create roadblocks to working effectively in future.
The best action that you can take, when you find yourself on one side of the two-sided argument is to stop, take a breath... and listen. We get so caught up in our wants, needs, opinions that we typically stop truly listening to what the other party is actually saying. We begin focusing on being heard and end up shutting down our hearing, let alone our bid to understand. If you are looking to reach a resolution, and not just push your agenda forward, then listening is the way out. The following tips will help you to break through the one-sided dialogues taking place and shift back into having a conversation about the issue.
1. Look at the other party and make eye contact. Once we shift our focus on ourselves - our solution, our desired outcome, our needs - our eyes tend to shift also. It is difficult to convince someone that we care about what they need and want if we are not even looking at them. We unconsciously direct our upper torso and eyes toward what we are interested in. Show your interest in what others have to say by angling your upper body and eyes toward them.
2. If you feel that you are not being heard... then chances are good that you are not listening. If you feel that the other party is not paying attention to your points, odds are that you have also shut them down and are not listening fully to what they have to say. Opening yourself to truly listening to them will demonstrate the behaviour you want and expect from them. Listen first. You can't expect someone to show you the respect and courtesy you expect without also engaging in it!
3. Take notes. Not only does taking notes indicate to the other party that you are paying attention to what they are saying but it also helps you to stay focused. This is helpful if you tend to have an unruly mind that wants to wander off sometimes, but it is always helpful in highlighting to the other party that you have a desire to capture their key points.
4. Focus on what you agree on. We get caught up in our differences. However, only focusing on the areas of difference makes them appear far larger then they typically are. By focusing on what areas you agree on, you build some commonality which serves to put the areas of difference into perspective. You may find that the few things you disagree on are more easily overcome when you realize that they are not as all encompassing as once believed.
5. Create mental pictures. By trying to form a mental picture of what the other person is saying, you will find that you listen with more intent and focus. This not only helps you to appear more interested and open to them, but helps you to pick up a level of detail that you might otherwise have overlooked.
6. Listen with the intent to understand, not overcome. You are not listening to what someone has to say only so that you can refute each point. Listen to understand the other person's position, their unspoken concerns, and what is truly important to them. It is through that you will be able to find a solution to fit all needs.
I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I'm going to learn, I must do it by listening. Larry King