Why is “listening” so hard in difficult conversations?
You know the difficult conversations that I’m talking about… the ones where you are confronted about your choices or your behaviour or something you said. Or the conversations where you feel criticized and put down.
There are many reasons why we won’t (or is it that can’t?) listen – especially in difficult conversations.
- We are emotionally triggered by someone’s mannerisms, choice of words, voice or tone. Because we are triggered (and usually feeling pretty defensive), it becomes really hard to “listen” – to receive the communication from the other person.
- We have an agenda of what we want to communicate in the conversation. We have a point to make, a lesson to teach or a comment that will “change the other person’s perspective” and we can’t wait to get it out!
- We think that we already know what the other person is going to say. How many times have you noticed that people don’t listen because they already assume that they know what you are going to say?
- Listening is difficult when the speaker has low credibility in our eyes.
- Our feelings get in the way of listening: when someone points out a mistake, they never say we are incompetent or stupid, but we sure can feel like that is the message…
Listening is an art. But listening can also be painful. I’ve shared a few examples of when we find it hard to listen and hear but I am sure that there are many more. Now it is your turn… when do you find it difficult to listen or hear people?
Next time, I would like to talk about how we can improve our ability to listen. Stay tuned…