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Do You Hear Me?

Do You Hear Me?

I was asked to help out a friend of mine who is having challenges with a few of his employees. Basically, they can’t stand each other. A problem, I guess you could say – especially since they have to work together.

I met with each of these individuals last week. They were all quite pleasant to be with. I asked them what their challenge was with the other people I was talking to.

All three of them said the same thing: “They don’t listen!”

Now, that’s interesting. All three are talking, but no one is listening. In other words, everyone is so focused on the fact that what they are saying isn’t being heard that they are unable to hear what the other person is saying. And the more people feel like they are not being heard, the more people feel like they need to express themselves, and so one and so forth. Sooner or later it turns into a full-fledged conflict.

That’s what is happening.

Have you ever been there? Have you ever felt like you were not being heard? I have. It’s not a pleasant feeling. I know the temptation to speak louder, more forceful, to make sure to get my point across.

I know from experience that you can’t escalate into hearing.

One person is going to have to do the hard thing, the humble thing – and listen.

If only it could be the other person!

No! You do it. You be the strong one.

Do this: listen first. Then ask them a question that goes something like this: “This is what I’m hearing. Is this what you are trying to say?” In other words, ask them: “Help me understand your point of view.”

It’ll work. That’s what the person has been trying to do the whole time. That’s what you have been trying to do the whole time.

Sometimes it is good to have a referee.

But in most cases the tension will release immediately. The tenor of the person’s voice will settle down. And they will say, “This is what I’m really trying to say.”

And then, you will say something like, “Oh. I understand.”

And they will say, “Thank you. And what were you trying to say?”

Then, you will answer.

Most conflict in life comes from miscommunication of one sort or another. It happens in the gaps between what is said and heard. There is always a gap, and the person in the listening position will always fill in the gaps in the way that makes sense to them. It takes humility and work to pause and ask the question: am I filling in the gaps correctly? That is why in communication it is essential that we constantly seek clarification – to say “this is what I’m hearing; what am I missing?”

It is amazing to see the difference in tone and results if you can create this kind of dialogue.

How about you?

Where are you not being heard? What would it take for you to do the humble work of communication?

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Ned Erickson

Ned is the Founder and Executive Director of the Winston-Salem Fellows, a non-profit dedicated to equipping people to live seamless lives as they grow into the men and women they were created to be. He is the author of four books, including the critically acclaimed novel Clay. He, his wife, two children, dogs, rabbit, guinea pig, turtle, and chickens live in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

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