During delicate conversations when you address sensitive issues with employees, it’s the subtle things that count.
The line between a sincere look of sympathy and an antagonizing smirk is incredibly thin. Listen well to keep the peace. Impatient people raise tensions by interrupting, visibly overreacting and jumping to conclusions.
Beware of seemingly minor but disruptive listening patterns that can inflame a conflict.
- Finishing sentences. You think you’re advancing the conversation (and doing the speaker a favor) by guessing what he or she is trying to say—and blurting it out. Actually, you’re fanning the flames.
- Nodding like a bobble-head doll. Too much nodding works against you in an argument. It’s a nonverbal cue that signals to the speaker, “I’m nodding so much because I’m sick and tired of you doing all the talking.”
If you really want to convey your attentiveness, keep still and maintain a rapt expression. Nod occasionally to affirm your understanding of a particularly emphatic point that the speaker makes. But don’t go overboard or you risk sabotaging the conversation.