We often think we have more power when we talk. We believe we can persuade people with our carefully crafted language. Sometimes we believe if we tell them what we want upfront, the will accommodate our wishes quickly.
Should we talk first, or should we listen first?
I have a brother that is a doctor. He was taught to listen first to accurately diagnose, and then, to thoughtfully prescribe. However, many of us have a tendency to jump into a conflict, without listening fully first, and try to fix things quickly with our uninformed and unsolicited opinions. We often fail to take the time to diagnose like a doctor before we prescribe our suggestion or solution.
When it comes to communication skills – writing, reading, speaking, and listening – listening is the skill we use the most and had the least training. The first time I had a listening class was during my Masters’ Degree program in Communication.
If we want to interact effectively with someone, or influence them, we first need to listen and understand them. It’s the same thing when it comes to conflict resolution and negotiation. We really need to listen to the other side, to be able to interact effectively, and influence them. We need to diagnose, before we prescribe.
The key is empathetic listening. Empathetic listening is trying to understand the other person, their frame of reference, and try to see the world the way they see it, understand their perspective, understand their paradigm, and understand how they think and feel.
In empathetic listening, you listen with your ears and your eyes. You listen for information and data. You listen for feelings and meanings. Since thoughts create feelings, you need to be nimble in your listening behavior and tailor your responses.
We should listen first to understand, listen for common ground, listen so we can reach agreement. Listening is a great tool for resolving conflicts and negotiating satisfying outcomes. Been complimented on your listening skills lately?