Listening: The Most Powerful Tool to End Conflict at Work

When we think about how to be a good communicator, we often think about how to improve how we speak, but the real power comes from listening.

A couple weeks ago, we talked about how to Ease Conflict at Work with Nonviolent Communication and used an example of two co-workers, Patrice and Nina. Patrice was feeling frustrated that Nina was emailing her every weekend. They were able to come to an agreement not only because of how Patrice made her request, but also because Nina listened.

Good listeners practice seven things:

#1 Stop talking

When someone comes to us with a complaint, our first inclination might be to jump in with a solution, or to defend ourselves. Instead, let the other person express themselves fully.

#2  Don’t add meaning and judgment

It’s natural to add meaning or to judge. When you become aware you’re doing it, you will quickly be a better listener. Try to understand and empathize with the feelings and needs of the person you’re in conversation with, even if they’re different than yours.

#3 Keep the focus on the speaker

As much as you may want to respond right away, or share a related story from your life, give the speaker your full attention. Listening is about them, not you.

#4 Ask clarifying questions

Before coming up with solutions, you need to truly understand the comment or problem. You’ll avoid assumptions and misunderstandings by asking, “I don’t understand x. Can you tell me more about it?”

#5 Slow down

Rushed conversations can cause big misunderstandings. If someone wants to talk with you about an issue, try to go for a walk, go out for coffee, or create a distraction-free space in your office (e.g. put your computer to sleep, turn off your ringer, and shut your door).

#6 Demonstrate listening

Good listeners make eye contact, nod, and mirror what you’re saying (e.g. So it sounds like when you receive emails from me on the weekend you feel pressure to reply, is that right?).

#7 Notice “triggers”

Sometimes a difficult conversation can cause us to feel emotions that are out of proportion to the situation. When this happens, it’s important to be aware that the other person is not causing you to have strong feelings, something else is. Generally, a value you hold dear isn’t feeling honored in that moment. Breathe, notice it, and stay focused on the other person. The feeling will pass.

Try this:

  • Use one of the seven practices of a good listener each day for seven days. You will be amazed at the new quality of your conversations.
  • Let me know how it goes in the comments below, on Facebook, on LinkedIn, or via email.

Onward and keep tapping your talent,

Cindy

 

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