How to listen when listening is hard

‘And with that they turned something good into something evil.’ I’m listening to the man and my spine tingles. What he says directly contradicts some of my core values and the things I believe in. A small part of me wants to walk away but that’s not why I’m here. So I do my best to make sure I don’t disconnect.

The following four strategies help me to listen in situations like this.

1. Asking questions
By asking questions I can ensure whether I understand the other person correctly. I can grasp more of his way of seeing the world and learn his story. It makes me focus on his point of view, instead of my own.

2. Find common ground
1. As humans we like people who are alike. So it helps to find things which you share with this person. In this example, the man I was talking to wanted to know what my opinions on certain matters were. So we found each other in the way we employed curiosity.

3. Avoiding the argument battle
Listening and being there for somebody doesn’t entail an argument competition. It often ensures we entrench ourselves deeper in our points of view and our rightfulness I only express my arguments when I’m explicitly asked for them.

4. An emotional safety net

During the hard conversations I try to leave my emotions out of it. They can come after I finish my conversation. In order to deal with my own emotions it sometimes helps to talk to other people. People who know me really well and I can say anything to. During the complete inauguration weekend in Washington I had two very close friends and my oldest brother in a speed dial group on what’s app. After every impactful situation (also the positive ones) I contacted them and they would respond within a couple of hours. Having that connection made me feel safe, gave me perspective and bad jokes when needed. After these short bursts of contact I was able to leave it behind me and be open for the next person.

Of course there are more situations in which listening can be difficult. For instance when you’re filled with emotions or when you have judgments about the other person. Read here how I dealt with being full of emotions. How to handle judgments will be my next blog.

The man in the story and the man in the photo are not the same person.

 

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