Why is it that you can say the same thing to two people and they each hear a completely different message?  What causes words to become so twisted up that the message gets lost?

Listening is truly an art and not many people do it well.  The biggest blocker to our listening is our brain’s desire to protect us at all times.  This causes your brain to naturally operate on the defense.  So everything that gets said to you filters through your bias about the person saying the message, your belief in the message itself, and your thoughts on the topic the person is addressing you with.

So how do you get a person to suspend their natural skepticism to actually hear what you are saying?

1. Recognize that the brain works on the defense so it is your job to REMOVE the barriers to their listening.  You do this by acknowledging differences between how you and they see the situation.  They have got to feel you understand them, the situation and that you are looking at this from an unbiased perspective.

2. Avoid talking about “I think” or “I feel”.  These two phrases automatically set the person up to jump to defending their position.  So in reality there is no listening to understand going on, just listening to refute.  This means the message you are sharing is being filtered by “why they shouldn’t do what you are asking.”

3. Stay in curiosity.  Remember you only know about 30% of every conversation you go in to.  Your job is to gather all the facts and information that you possible can so you can have an intelligent conversation with the other person.  So they can’t think or feel that you have already arrived to your conclusion.  This leads to the next important steps.

4. Stick to the FACTS, not your interpretation or story. You may THINK you know all the facts but in reality you may have been buying in to your INTERPRETATION or STORY that you have attached to facts you know.  For example, a fact would be that Sylvia is always late for a meeting and that your lateness makes you angry. An Interpretation or Story would be that you believe Sylvia is always late because she thinks she is better than everyone else, she doesn’t value you or your time, and she just wants to dominate you.  Unfortunately the interpretation or story is what most people focus on and the conversation degenerates in to finger pointing and blame.

In using the above steps I have found that, more often than not, my view on a situation has been altered by what the other person brought to light in the conversation.  This has led to wiser solutions, keener insights and more strategic alliances, but most importantly, it has preserved relationships as I realize how often being right is being wrong.

PS:  Join us for our next Impression Management Seminar!