Since the 1990s there has been book after book with titles such as ‘How to have difficult conversations’, ‘Crucial confrontations’, ‘How to win an argument’. As a Human Resource professional who has had to manage organisational issues that are often contentious- such as redundancies, disciplinaries, performance matters, I always had to build up my courage to go into these situations, and by the end of the day I would be exhausted.
Before I started each meeting I had a negative mindset: I would say to myself; “This is going to be difficult“, “He never listens to anyone, just shouts “, “I’m no good at getting my point across“. For years I lived with this tension until one day I had a light bulb moment. I realised I was looking at it all wrong, and found that communicating with others just needs a change of mindset that involves the following approaches:
1) Be compassionate. Although some people like to create an argument and seem to get a buzz out of it, in reality when two people are trying to make a point in a discussion, each one just wants the other person to see their perspective. They have a point they want to make and tension is just the frustration that the other person doesn’t seem to care. So start caring about the other person’s viewpoint!;
2) Be interested. Is this familiar- someone is telling you their view, but you are not fully listening, you are already putting together your retort to what they are saying in your head? When a person stops and actually listens to another person, sometimes we actually benefit from it! I don’t know who actually said the following quote- some say Aristotle some say the Dalai Lama; whoever it was, it sums up how we should approach interacting with other people: “When we speak we are just repeating what we already know, but when we listen we learn something new/”
So be curious about the other person’s view. Ask questions, look them in the eyes and show them you are paying attention. Look for common agreement, and ask for more discussion around the parts that don’t align with your views. Maybe they have a point after all.
And even if at the end you still disagree I bet you it ended politely, with no shouting and no red faces. Both of you respected each other’s views, took the time to understand the views better, and maybe even smiled at one another. That’s all anyone wants isn’t it?