A golden tip if you want others to hear you out and understand what you are saying –
In conversations, we usually tend to swing between agreeing and disagreeing. The point in between is the point that holds people together even when there is a difference in viewpoints. Actually, more so when there is a difference in point of view – it is important that we do this. Otherwise, it appears like you are disagreeing with the person and not their perspective or behavior.
The word we are referring to now is “Acknowledging”. It’s the helpful mid-point between agreeing and disagreeing. First, acknowledge what the other person is saying – regardless of whether you agree with what they are saying or not – hear them out and acknowledge what you have heard. The minute you interrupt, dismiss, or ignore what they have said, you lose rapport with them. And if you don’t have rapport, rest assured, you’ll not have them listening or buying into what you have to say either.
Let me illustrate with an example:
A mother is talking to her teenage daughter and insisting that she takes up a certain field of study for her undergraduate course. The daughter vehemently opposes. She tells her mother it is not something she likes at all. Both of them get into a heated argument. The mother is upset with the daughter because she feels her daughter doesn’t understand her.
An alternative response – The daughter hears what the mother suggests. She thanks her for thinking about her and her future. She acknowledges how that may actually help her if she studies this course. And then gently tells her mother there’s something she’d like to talk to her about. She puts across her point of view as to why she’s looking at another kind of course and also covers her mother’s criteria of security for her future too. The mother hears her out patiently.
What would’ve been an argument, turns out to be a healthy discussion! It’s not the end result, it is the means towards the end that matters. One is we forcefully make our way, the other is we gently make our way. Without burning bridges, without breaking rapport if we are able to express our point of view, 99% of the time people are willing to listen. There may be a 1% exception to this, like all rules. However, even there if you choose not to be rude, dismissive or impolite about it, the chances are, you may still have it your way without causing permanent damage to the relationship.
Another scenario – Imagine you have an irritated customer or friend who is unhappy with you or your product. And they are complaining loudly. If you refuse to let them finish, if you interrupt, or if you try convincing them that you aren’t at fault, you will only make the other person even more irritated. Instead, if you first hear them out, let them finish and acknowledge their emotion (even if their words are not something you agree with), acknowledge that they are upset, and ask them how can you help, it will help more.
Firstly, their anger comes down to a great degree when they feel the other person is willing to listen and understand. When a person is upset, they aren’t running high on positive emotions. They run high on a fear of being taken for granted. That’s the biggest fear. The most effective way of dealing with that is by first acknowledging their feeling and creating a safe space. By arguing in that moment, we are creating a need in them to fight or defend. That’s not going to help.
When we don’t acknowledge, the following happens:
- It triggers a fight or flight response in the other person. They either become defensive or shut down.
- In this mode, the range of positivity comes down and negative emotions take over.
- The more we see this in another person, the more we tend to be influenced by it too.
- By the end, there will be two angry, and fearful people, trying to safeguard their own interests since they feel the other person isn’t going to do that.
And remember, this entire process is not conscious. It happens at an unconscious level. Hence, right at the very beginning, if you acknowledge the other person’s point of view before you put yours across, this kind of a negative engagement won’t happen. It will be more of a constructive conversation where two people are expressing their points of view without negating or trying to defeat the other. State your point. You don’t have to prove the other person wrong. When we don’t acknowledge, that’s what we end up doing. We forcefully try to say that they are incorrect and we disagree with them, not their point. A person is never wrong. From their vantage point, their view might make sense. It might not make sense to us from where we are. But that doesn’t make them wrong.
Again, 99% of fights, quarrels, and arguments happen because we feel the other person is not willing to listen or understand what we are saying. The minute people feel you are ready to do that, there is no need for an argument. A great listener always acknowledges what they hear before they move further. Could you do that? Could you make people feel heard? They are going to remember you for all the right reasons throughout their lives if you could.