Have you ever had a conversation and truly felt like you were being listened to and taken seriously?
Then there’s a good chance that the person you were speaking to had used one or more of the methods I’m going to explain below. The reason why I’m addressing this topic is that I recently had a coaching client who was afraid of being perceived as someone uninterested in other people's feelings and opinions. The truth, of course, was that she is interested but wondered how she could transfer her feelings into action. To put the methods into context you might want to consider the following question: is it more frustrating when someone doesn’t agree with your message or when someone doesn’t understand your message?
If your answer is the latter it harmonises with the following axiom in communication theory: People want proof that information is being transferred. It is perfectly possible, in other words, to think differently without a conversation having to fall apart, as long as you make an effort to understand what the other person wants to convey. The following methods are not hard to grasp. However, some practising may be required before they become routine. Regarding that, there’s some good news waiting for you at the end of this article.
Building on the message. By building we aim to find something in the other person’s reasoning that we can expand or elaborate on, even if we don’t agree with what they are actually saying. What we are doing, however, is conveying that we try to see the issue from the other person’s point of view.
Let’s say your management team is discussing the priorities for next year's budget. You do not agree with the person who suggests that the organisation should reduce its investment in competence development. Instead of getting involved in a ‘yes, but’ conversation, you build by saying that you realise this suggestion would free up money. Then you can follow up with my tip number two:
Open questions. For example: "how does your proposal relate to the fact that we have quite a large number of new employees"?
Paraphrasing. To paraphrase means to rephrase in your own words what the other person is saying in order to make sure you have understood things right. Doing so conveys that you have taken some time to process the message. It might sound a little like this:
The other person: "I must say I have a bit of a hard time coming to terms with this decision."
You: “What I’m hearing you say is that this move is somewhat hard to swallow, is that correct?"
Mirror inner feelings. Whenever we communicate there is a content aspect to any conversation that corresponds to the transcript of what was said. There is also an emotional aspect that is not always verbalised but that is visible to the eye or perceptible in the strength or tone of voice. If you can pick up those signals then you might want to say things like "I get the feeling you're a little frustrated?" or "It sounds like this has come as something of a shock to you?”
Like I said, some practising may be required before these methods become routine. The good news I promised is that it is not imperative to master the methods. Half the battle has already been won if the other person feels you are making the effort to listen to and understand their point of view. Which leads us to the suggestion that when you have finished reading this text, get out there in the real world and start applying these tips. Let me know how it turned out!
The clients who reach out to me are managing directors, management teams, and executives who want to realise the potential in their organisations and accomplish extraordinary results. They reach out to me because of my ability to transform individuals, teams, and organisations.