If you don’t like what you hear, it’s tempting to pick a fight. But that rarely brings opposing parties closer together.
Wise leaders listen with an open mind. They withhold judgment until they’ve absorbed the speaker’s message in full.
In practice, it’s tough to listen for understanding. It’s easier to display anger and talk over someone with whom you disagree.
Use these techniques to stay receptive when you hear what you don’t want to hear:
√ Watch your first words. Stop yourself if you’re about to interrupt and say, “You’re wrong” or “No, no, no.”
Instead, wait to respond on your terms. Stay silent and let people finish, even if you’re stewing inside. Then ensure your first words are positive or at least neutral, such as “Let me make sure I understand” or “I come at this from another angle.”
√ Track your thoughts. As you listen, notice what you’re thinking. If you’re distracted by arguments bouncing around in your head, you’re probably not taking in all the necessary information.
Replace mental messages such as “This person has no clue” with “I’ll list all the evidence I hear and evaluate it later.” This rivets your attention on what matters most.
√ Admit error. If you’re angry or defensive, you may ratchet up tensions. That will only deepen the rift between you and your combatant.
To restore peace, acknowledge any mistakes on your end. Volunteer ways you could’ve handled the situation better to prove that you’re being honest with yourself. This sets the stage for others to mirror your honesty.
— Adapted from The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt, Deb Bright, AMACOM.