One of the principals of good communication and conflict resolution is listening. How many of us really listen? We think we are listening when all we are really either: (1) thinking of our response to what we think the other person is saying; (2) hearing only what we want to hear to confirm what we already believe; or (3) deciding what we should eat for dinner that night.
What does it mean to really listen? Read carefully this definition by Mark Nepo:
“To listen is to continually give up all expectation and to give our attention, completely and freshly, to what is before us, not really knowing what we will hear or what that will mean. In the practice of our days, to listen is to lean in, softly, with a willingness to be changed by what we hear.”
Why is listening so important for conflict resolution? Often, the root of conflict is a feeling that one is not being heard or understood. It can be aggravating and hurtful to sense that someone has dismissed your feelings or point of view. People can tell when someone is only pretending to listen. Sometimes, once one feels understood, he/she is able to move away from the bad feelings and embrace resolution. Also, when one does not listen well, misunderstandings persist. Communication is an opportunity to clear up misunderstandings that can be at the root of a conflict. However, misunderstandings can be missed if a party to the conflict is not listening.
How can we practice good listening? Quite simply, the listener must concentrate. One technique that is useful to ensure active listening is to repeat, in one’s own words, what he/she has heard to speaker say, to make sure he/she fully understood the speaker. Resist the temptation to finish the speaker’s sentence. It is also helpful to make sure one’s body language conveys interest (for example, leaning slightly forward). Further, one should maintain appropriate eye contact and may want to ask clarifying questions.
Alona M. Gottfried is a mediator and attorney in Arizona. If you have questions about mediation, she can be reached at: 480-998-1500 or email@example.com. This is a general interest article only and is not intended to be legal advice. See a legal professional before making legal decisions.
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