Listening is an act of affirmation

ListeningAnger and frustration are nothing more than unfulfilled expectations. You can get as deep as you want with that, but the root of all anger and frustration always comes down to the expectations of one person not being met by another.

When people don’t get what they want, they get frustrated and, over time, angry.

At the heart of every productive conversation, there are two roles: storyteller and listener(s). One person speaks and another listens. In highly productive conversations, they may even switch parts.

Almost everyone knows the storyteller plays an important role in the conversation. After all, they speak, imparting their knowledge so that others can soak it in. While the storyteller’s role is important, the listener’s role is critical to the successful outcome of the conversation.

While explaining this to other leaders, I point out a situation that often comes up. We are usually aware of when there are two storytellers in a conversation; it often becomes very heated. What many don’t realize is there is even a sneakier role that can be more counterproductive to a conversation: a “waiter.”

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A waiter is someone who pretends to be a listener, but instead is waiting for the storyteller to finish speaking so they can shift into the storytelling role.

We’ve all experienced it: You’re speaking to someone, and as soon as you finish you can tell they weren’t listening. They were just waiting for you to finish speaking so they could relay what was on their mind.

As a listener, you can affirm the speaker in different ways. Nonverbal cues such as eye contact can go a long way, telling the storyteller you’re mentally present and acknowledging what they’re saying.

Another great way is to repeat what you’ve heard or to ask insightful questions as soon as the storyteller is finished. By doing this you’re letting them know you were listening to what they were saying. This is a huge affirmation boost.

A productive conversation isn’t about making sure both the storyteller and listeners agree. It’s about ensuring all expectations between the storyteller and listener are fulfilled, thereby avoiding anger and frustration.

You also affirm that you, as the listener, “heard” the storyteller. This manages anger and frustration by ensuring the message the storyteller is trying to convey is the one the listener is receiving.

Excerpted from Lead Your Tribe, Love Your Work, by Piyush Patel, an entrepreneur and an innovator in corporate culture with more than 20 years of experience. As the founder of Digital-Tutors, a world-leading online training company, he has helped educate more than 1 million students in digital animation, with clients including Pixar, Apple and NASA.