Conflict Tip: People Want to Be Heard
One reason so many conflicts become “stuck” is that we think the conflict is only about the ideas involved. We forget that it’s really about two (or more) human beings in a relationship. So as we get into it, we dive straight into the ideas. You make your point; I make my counterpoint. We go back and forth and usually end the conversation frustrated and without any significant agreements.
So here’s the catch: human beings in relationships want the other side to truly hear and understand them. I am not sure why this is so deeply programmed within us, but it is. And until you feel that the other side has heard you, you will most likely keep repeating yourself–while not really listening to the other side. Have you been in a conflict where while the other person is talking, you are mostly formulating the details of your rebuttal statement inside your head? Yeah, those don’t end well.
But if you can learn to quiet that internal voice and actually listen to the other side, you’ll see things change dramatically. And you should not only listen–you should repeat back to them what you heard. This is where you would use that cliché opening “So I hear you saying that…”
Except don’t use that one. It’s cliché, and everyone will think you just came back from a seminar. But find a phrase to start with that leads you to repeat back to the person your understanding of what they just said. It often helps to couch it a bit in a question format–like you’re checking with them, “Did I get this correctly?”
And if you did get it correctly, you’ll often see an almost grateful response from the other party. It may be a simple “yes,” but it may have a feeling associated with it that is closer to “yes, FINALLY!” People are grateful to be heard and understood.
And as soon as they are, they are suddenly (and almost magically) open to listening to your points. It’s like they were carrying around a full glass of water, and all that time you were trying to pour your water into their full cup, and it would just spill over the sides. But when you listened to them and understood them, it allowed them to pour some of their water out, making room for what you have to offer.
This doesn’t guarantee that the conflict will be resolved, but I can tell you, as long as you’re going back and forth without listening, you won’t get anywhere. Learn how to listen well, and make sure people know you heard and understood them. Then dig into the ideas, and you’ll be more likely to reach agreement.