Of course, verbal cues matter, too, and if you listen emotionally, you’ll be able to interpret them quite easily. If someone says, “I’m happy with that raise,” you can assume she is. “I support that decision,” means most likely means you have an ally.
But sometimes words need to be deconstructed. For example, when someone says, “Whatever!” they might really mean, “I know you don’t care how I feel.” “With all due respect” usually means “Watch out, I’m going to show no regard for your position.” Even something innocuous like “I’ll go with the ﬂow” might really mean, “I actually hate this decision, but I’m not going to fight it.”
You might not know for certain when someone hasn’t said what they’re really feeling, but anytime you’re uncertain, it’s best to probe for more information. Here are great questions to help you gather more insight without accusing anybody of misrepresenting themselves:
“How are you feeling about this situation?”
“Would you have preferred a diﬀerent outcome?”
“I sense you have a concern about this decision.”
“Can you tell me more?”
“Are you happy with this project?”
“Are there any issues I’m not aware of?”
You’ll notice these are all extremely brief and straightforward. All you’re trying to do is clear some room for someone to elaborate on what’s going through their head.
Related: Six Easy Ways To Become A Better Listener
4. ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR OWN FEELINGS WITHOUT SUCCUMBING TO THEM
Yes, easier said than done. It’s so easy to react emotionally if you don’t like what you hear. But the key isn’t to ignore your own feelings, it’s to respond rather than react to them–and there’s a difference. If you feel yourself getting annoyed, acknowledge that to yourself, and then immediately move on toward trying to understand what motivates the other person. This can help redirect your own emotional energy more productively.
Impromptu: Leading in the Moment by Judith Humphrey
A former client of mine told me about when one of his employees quit. The team member had been underperforming, and eventually walked into my client’s office and said, “I’m resigning.” “I didn’t want to react with anger,” my client reflected. “I didn’t want to tell him I’d invested so much time in him–though I had–and I didn’t want to get mad at him and say, ‘I can’t believe you’re quitting.'” Instead, he acknowledge his frustration and disappointment, but then right away asked his employee why he was quitting.
The executive told me, “I responded to each reason [he gave]–culture, workload, and so forth. Then I said I could understand how he felt, but I would have liked a diﬀerent outcome. Nevertheless, I respected his courage and conﬁdence. It was a win-win: I didn’t make him feel badly, and I got feedback from him that was constructive and will allow me to make things better in my organization.”
This discussion could’ve turned into a battle of wills. Rather than letting emotions take over–or trying to shut them out entirely–my client worked to understand where those feelings were coming from. Emotional conversations present listeners with two options:
Meet the person speaking at their level.
Find common ground based on whatever might be causing those emotions. from the forthcoming Impromptu: Leading in the Moment by Judith Humphrey. Copyright© 2018 by John Wiley & Sons"
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