When you get in a conflict with someone, do you find yourself trying to win a battle? Or trying to understand?
If you’re like most of us, you’re trying to win a battle. I have to fight that all the time. Especially with my wife of 47 years. I tend to want to win, and that’s so unhealthy. So step number 3 in dealing with and resolving conflict is to seek understanding not victory. The real victory is when we understand one another and can respond to one another the right way.
This young couple are looking at each other and talking; they’re seeking to understand, not just be victorious. To do that you need to learn to listen. How?
- Concentrate on what the other is saying.
- Try to understand at a deep level.
We all want to be heard and listened to. Perhaps you’ve heard this statement: People will never care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
I remember some years ago, my wife was on the board of a non-profit organization. She came home from a conference with some questions about her role and said, “Can we go out to lunch and talk about it?” So we did and she started asking me questions right away. As America’s Life Coach I started to answer the questions—-that’s what I do—-and she leaned over and patted me on the hand and said, “Honey, don’t answer my questions.” And I thought, “Well, why in the world are you asking me questions if you don’t want me to answer them?”
I didn’t say anything but I knew what she meant. She was saying “I don’t want you to try to fix me.” (By the way, it’s never a good idea to try to fix people.) She said, “I want you to listen to what I’m thinking. I just want to process out loud and I want your love. I don’t want your counsel right now.” So for the next hour and a half, I listened. I made no declarative statements. I asked a couple of clarifying questions to help me understand. I made no statements of fact, though I wanted to!
When we got done, she took my hand and said, “Honey, honey, honey, thank you so much! This is the best discussion we’ve ever had.” Then she leaned across the table and gave me a big kiss. And I thought, “Discussion? Did we have a discussion?” But I got the point. She wanted to be heard, she didn’t need feedback at that point. She didn’t want to be fixed. She just wanted to think out loud and be understood.
That’s why we listen. The truth is that most conflicts are not about the state of issues, they’re about how people are feeling.
So when you’re listening …
- Listen to how people feel.
- Try to empathize with them.
- Remember the goal is understanding, not winning.
God gave us two ears and one mouth. That tells us how much time we should spend listening compared to speaking. So put that to work.
Please share your comments, questions and insights below. And, if this is helpful for you, please pass it on to your friends and family via email or social media.