It’s hard to listen to someone when we don’t agree with them. Our natural inclination is to come straight back with our own point of view, and try our hardest to get our message across. Doing this very rarely gives us the outcome we want. A much more productive way to go about things is to adopt the simple techniques below. You’ll be amazed at how much more receptive people are to your ideas once you show them that you’ve listened to theirs.

Consider the following example:

You and your colleagues strongly disapprove of a new campaign the management are launching. John, a colleague with whom you’ve never had an easy relationship, has said he thinks none of the office staff should go to the management meeting to show them how much you dislike it. You really think this would be a mistake. You open your mouth, ready to tell him how wrong he is. But wait.

Let’s consider some techniques that might be more effective in getting John to hear your point of view and less likely to result in an argument.

The first thing to do is pause. Resist your inclination to jump in and wait until you have heard him out. Then summarise what you feel his key points are:

“So John, you think that we should not go to the meeting in order to boycott their campaign?”

 Using this summary statement makes sure that you have in fact understood his point correctly. Then state your point of view, in a tentative way. Make sure that you give the impression that you are not challenging his idea but just putting forward a different perspective.

“The way I see it, that might be interpreted as apathy. I think going to the meeting would allow us to influence them more strongly.”

 Using a tentative approach and checking that we have really understood what someone else is saying can often result in them changing their approach. Hearing their message summarised by someone else makes them feel acknowledged. We are more likely to think about how our message will be received if we are feeling safe and unchallenged. This contributes to a dialogue rather than a debate.

You still may not agree with the other person’s ideas but following the order of:

1. Pause

2. Summarise their point

3. Giving your perspective in a tentative manner

will be much more likely to establish respectful and thoughtful communication.

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