He’s wrong, I’m right, how could it be otherwise? I have the facts, I have the data. What in the world was he thinking?
We become overheated when we feel the other party hasn’t heard us. Bewilderment turns to irritation to righteous indignation to anger. This happens in families, business, and government – seemingly now more than ever.
How do we find a way through when emotions are high, and we want to preserve the relationship?
If you listen, you’ll notice that each party seems to repeat the same argument over and over. Why? Because they feel that if we would just listen, we would agree. So they repeat and repeat, hoping in vain that we will “get them.”
We all want to be “gotten.”
There is a technique that, although used in couples counseling, can work wonders in other settings. When the temperature of a conversation threatens to get too hot, pause and mirror back to the person what you thought he or she said. Not the conclusion, but the exact words as nearly as possible:
“What I heard you say was….“
Pause and ask: “Did I get that right? Is there anything else?”
Continue that until there is nothing else.
The next part is harder, but it’s where the magic happens.
It’s our job to find the sense of what the other has said. Remember you don’t have to agree! You just have to be able to see the situation through their eyes. Here is what it might look like:
“It makes sense to me that you would…”
Come to that conclusion
Feel that way
See it that way
Your job is not to make them wrong, but to give them the experience of being deeply heard and to understand through their eyes.
The last step is to acknowledge how the situation must have made them feel.
“I can imagine you felt…”
Sad, mad, confused, ignored, dejected, rejected, disrespected
Or whatever emotion you can imagine they felt. Then ask if that is how they felt.
Thank them for helping you understand the situation from their perspective. You may also want to give voice to your appreciation for the relationship.
If you are lucky, they will ask you to tell them “your side.” And if they don’t, know that you are developing a skill that will stand you in good stead the rest of your life.
Try it out and let me know what happens.
Until next Tuesday,