To feel heard and to feel understood is a gift. Too often conversations, emails and texts are rushed, vague and open to interpretation. This can mean trouble down the line both at work and in your personal life.
On a basic level, it’s important to recognize that we’re all unique and that our brains all think differently. For example; if I say the words New York City, what comes up for you? Skyscrapers, street hot dogs, opportunity, the Empire State building, Woody Allen movies, a family vacation, yellow cabs, 9/11, excitement, packed streets, Central Park, Frank Sinatra…..
Even the name of a city can evoke strong feelings and visions, dredge up old memories or trigger you in any number of ways. There’s no way of controlling how someone thinks or how they are going to react, but there are two simple tools I use everyday with my clients – and in my personal life – that help move me towards understanding, connection and consensus.
1. Actively Listen
Active listening is HUGE. I dedicated a whole article to it, which you can find here.
In short, active listening means listening beyond the words for what’s really being said – or not said. It means putting your own thoughts and feelings to one side and focusing purely on what’s being communicated to you. Let go of any response and instead look for the true essence of what’s being said.
As I demonstrated above with my New York City example, words can elicit a different range of feelings and emotions in you than they do in the next person. You may interpret my words or actions very differently from how I intended, and vice versa. How do we fix this? We clarify.
We clarify by condensing everything that’s been communicated into its purest form. From there, we state what we heard in our own words as succinctly and clearly as we can.
Usually, when someone finishes talking, we respond with our thoughts and opinions. Alternatively, if our response becomes a communication of what we’ve understood from the other person, it allows them to feel heard and moves us closer to consensus. Even if you’re slightly wrong or completely off, it provides an opportunity to clarify again or communicate the idea differently until you’re both clear.
Conversely, if you want to make sure you’ve been understood, simply ask. ‘How does that sit with you?’ or ‘What’s coming up for you?’ Asking for clarity in this way allows both parties to feel safe and understood and often leads to fresh insights.
The best way to apply these tools is to practice….
STEP 1: Find a willing partner. Ask them to sit with you and talk to you for one minute on a subject of their choosing.
STEP 2: Sit and listen, don’t respond. Stay focused on what they’re telling you with their words, their tone, their energy, their body language, their eyes. Take it all in. How did that feel? What are you noticing?
STEP 3: Once they have finished talking, sit in silence for another minute and process all the information that you just absorbed. At the end of the minute ask yourself, what’s coming up for me? How does this feel different from just responding?
STEP 4: When you’re ready, summarize what you heard as clearly and concisely as you can. What reaction did you get? How did it feel for you and your partner? What did you learn?
Clarity is KING! Long live the KING!
– Jamie Galloway