Listen Carefully For How Someone Wants to Be Heard

listenI was recently working with a client and realized something interesting. She was having a “failure to communicate” with one of her department managers. I asked her to walk me through the conversation – not her interpretation of the conversation – the actual conversation.

What I heard was the other person saying “feeling” words, or the word “feel” about 5-6 times.  What I heard my client say was “thinking” words in response. Neither heard the other, or should I say understood the other. It was as if they were speaking different languages – because they were.

A lot of literature says that males are “thinking” beings and females are “feeling” beings. We are all capable of being both, but we tend to lean one way or the other more often based on our personality structure, learning and communication styles. Whichever way we lean, we need to practice the other because if you are a leader, manager, coach, (or parent for that matter),you need the capacity to do both!!

Here’s how you can become better at listening, negotiating and in general being heard more clearly. First, listen for thinking or feeling words in the next conversation you have. Match that person with the same type of words, instead of reverting to your natural style. For example, an employee comes in and says, “I really feel disrespected by what James said to me.” Your reaction is “I think you may have misunderstood, tell me what happened.” End of conversation. You have just shut down the employee and made the situation worse.

A better way to respond would be, “can you tell me more about what makes you feel that way?” They will open up and describe for you what happened and you will gain clarity. Then respond with something like, “well, I can certainly understand how you might feel that way. Can you also understand how James may have felt when the situation happened?” You can’t get them to see your point-of-view until you first see theirs in their own language. For a thinking speaking person – “I think James disrespected me,” the question is, “what makes you think that? Can you see what James might have been thinking when he said that?”  You get the gist. Always match the word types and you’ll stay in the conversation.

Next time someone comes to you for a conversation, see if you can’t figure out which language they are speaking in and try to match them. See if it enhances the conversation. One caveat here, don’t use this as a cheesy sales tool to get people to do something or buy something. This is about understanding someone else better and being a better listener in order to improve communication and serve others. You will be surprised by what you hear from people. They will suddenly see you as very smart and a good listener, and all you did was listen for the language of thinking or feeling.

photo credit: highersights via photopin cc