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Are You Really Listening?

“Are you really listening…or are you just waiting for your turn to talk?” R. Montgomery

Listening is likely the most needed skill when in conflict. However, as this quote indicates, it is more often that we are not really hearing what the other person is saying – just waiting to speak. Or, we interrupt to get our point across sooner than later. In my experience as a conflict specialist, I commonly hear from coaching clients or observe in mediations a strong tendency to shut down the other person by not listening and really hearing. Or, we selectively choose what we hear and respond to that.

When in the midst of conflict, it’s not easy to just listen, to not filter the conversation the way we think or feel it is going, to stay calm, and to really hear what the other person is saying. It’s not easy to ask questions, to clarify, or to check out assumptions. It’s not easy to hear things that hurt and offend. It’s not easy to make sure we know what the other person is conveying that reflects what is important to them and challenges what is important to us. It’s not easy to hold off expressing our views and “fighting” back.

Here are some Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) to consider about a dispute you are or were recently in and check out what you heard:

  • What is or was the dispute about?
  • What did you have most trouble hearing that the other person said?
  • What did you have most trouble understanding about what they said?
  • What did the other person say that hurt you most?
  • What assumptions are you making about the other person’s intent for saying the things that hurt you?
  • What do you think the other person’s perception is of the dispute?
  • What about their perception is understandable? What isn’t?
  • What important point that you made do you think the other person didn’t hear? Why do you think that is the case?
  • What assumptions is the other person making about you because you don’t think they heard you?
  • What might help you both listen and hear each other?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?


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