Active listening is crucial to good communication and good communication is necessary to the success of any business. That’s why it’s vital for business leaders to work on their active listening skills so that they can understand what people are saying… even if they don’t agree with it.
So how do you listen actively so that you can understand the other side?
Paraphrasing and Repeating Back
When communicating with an employee or even another leader, the person must feel as if you are empathizing with them and that you understand and care about the same point of view.
To really help with this, it can be useful to use techniques such as paraphrasing and repeating back what the other person has said. You want to ask questions to ensure that you’re understanding them correctly and to ensure that they feel as if you are actively trying to understand them. It’s called perception checking.
Perception checking is the process of watching someone’s reaction and asking if they’re following you and understanding what you’re saying. A good business leader ensures that their own perception is checked!
Define the Problem
Once you agree on the issue at hand, define the problem. You want to make sure it’s clear to both of you as to what you disagree on.
You want to deal with the reason the person brought up the disagreement in the first place and be aware of any underlying issues at the root of it. Try not to get too personal and stay on track. Examine what you did that helped cause the problem, rather than just focusing on what the other person did.
A good business leader takes the lead and admits the things that they did that were wrong. They admit what they could have done differently and encourage the other person to do the same. Good conflict management doesn’t mean giving something resolution. It means getting each person to admit their contribution to it as well as the facts and feelings involved.
Know What Not to Do
When it comes to conflict resolution and understanding the opposing side, there are things you need to remember to do and things you need to remember not to do:
- Confront the issue
- Examine your own contribution to the problem
- Acknowledge what each person wants out of the process
Remember not to:
- Confront the person rather than the issue
- Focus only on the other person’s contribution to the problem
- Focus on the problem and not the solution
In the end, ask yourself, have emotions been diffused and an agreement been made on the issue? Finding solutions everyone can be happy with can be very complex, but it all begins with being open-minded and trying to understand the other person’s side rather than dismissing it. Understanding is key to finding the right solution for everyone, not just you.
You don’t have to agree with someone’s point of view to understand where they’re coming from and learn from it. Good business leaders don’t just brush aside someone’s opinion just because they disagree with it. They use it as a tool to look at their own opinion critically and to better understand the people they’re working with.
“Personally, a technique that I use to listen to others is to sit on my hands. It somehow stops me from trying to talk and interrupt, but that’s just me. Here are some skills and techniques that will help every leader be a better active listener.” – Cameron Herold
What helps you to understand the other side? Let us know in the comments below!
If you have questions or would like more information, I’d be happy to help. Please send an email, and my team will get in touch with you!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2012 and has been edited for accuracy and comprehensiveness.