They say, whoever “they”really are, that time heals all wounds. It’s true that time has its way of creating space, perspective, understanding, and thus promotes healing. We tend to cope and feel better the farther away we are from injury. We are able to repair ourselves through processing, through seeking help and through growth. Time is most often on our side.
Not every injury is repaired by time however. Consider a falling out between two friends or two coworkers. At first, there may be a heated exchange and a display of anger or frustration, which is always accompanied by disappointment or hurt feelings. Unfortunately, a common mechanism displayed in these situations is avoidance. Sure, there may be another failed attempt for resolution, but due to our lack of true conflict resolution skills, these typically go unresolved. The story goes on. The two sides no longer speak and even avoid one another. Additional signs of pain, such as the “unfriending” on Facebook (which is really a misguided attempt at payback) takes place. Negative feelings continue to grow and resentment sets in. Days, weeks, months and even years may go by without reparations of what was once a beneficial personal or professional relationship. Unless the case has two very forgiving people, time isn’t healing the wound. This is where listening is your very best first aid kit.
Listening — the new frontier.
We’re only human, after all, and letting down our guard and putting our ego aside can be challenging. You may even be riled up thinking that the other person acted like a jack-ass so offering your listening ear is not deserved by the offender. Call me crazy but utilizing listening as your rescue medicine just may lead you to successful outcomes and creating a happier self. Remember, the goal of listening is to understand. Offering a listening ear, with the goal to understand the other person, may seem unorthodox, and it is, because we seldom practice it. We all want to be heard. All of us. Listening will calm things down, if not at first, soon after. Let the offending party know that we are:
…about the fallout AND we would like to listen and understand their perspective. Sure, it will take duct tape (and prayer) for you to keep your cool, and your mouth shut, but it will lead to connection — and to mended relationships. People appreciate others who are willing to listen and your effort will not be forgotten. The key is to consciously and purposely utilize listening as a tool to forge connection, thus you need to stay committed to it.
I recently gave a talk to a legal society chapter and conflict resolution was their topic of interest. Many were curious as to what I was going to say about listening and its association with the topic. I was quite pleased to learn the very next day that a couple had tried the genuine listening approach the next morning and reported newly opened lines of communication with their adversaries. What’s the alternative? Shouting? Going back for more arguing? You see, having output wars never solves anything. When is the last time you were in a shouting match and came out feeling like the winner? People all too often have a false sense of victory when they outdo the other in verbal sparring. What’s the criteria for winning? Shouting louder? Having the last word? Listening is winning. If not on-the-spot, in the long-run. Sacrifice your immediate agenda for the other person’s. It’s not easy for most, but incredibly rewarding.
Whenever I speak or coach on this subject, I talk about the commitment to listen. Making this commitment, or asking for the commitment when approaching someone, turns out to be a very smart and strategic move. Building listeners in others, as well as ourselves, turns out to be a very smart move. Give it a try. Practice. Have patience, yet stay committed. No co-pay required.
Listening is a gift. We take it for granted and don’t see the true value. Verbal compliments are nice to receive but being given a true and genuine ear for you to talk to turns out to be a rare gift. Genuine focused attention, with the intent to really hear, and understand, what is being said, will win in the end. When conflict arises, try the road less traveled…listen.