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If you want to be heard, listen

One of those things that seems so obvious in retrospect.

I’ve read a lot of books on dealing with conflict, helping teams to jell, giving feedback, heck even parenting grumpy toddlers. The one thing they all say is that nobody’s going to want to listen to you until they feel heard.

The book Difficult Conversations hammers it home particularly well. It talks about “learning conversations” where you listen, ask questions, paraphrase, and acknowledge.

Listen to understand their perspective on what happened. Ask questions. Acknowledge the feelings behind the arguments and accusations. Paraphrase to see if you’ve got it. Try to unravel how the two of you got to this place.

Difficult Conversations

The purpose isn’t to convince them that you’re right. It’s to understand their opinions and share yours. Once they’re sure you understand them, they’ll be in the right mindset to listen to you.

Maybe this is common knowledge to everyone except me, but it’s been huge in my life. I’ve had some breakthrough conversations with people based on this one simple concept.

Here’s a full outline of running a difficult conversation from that book, if you’re curious.