Commit to active listening.
Today’s #DailyRevolution is to commit to active listening when engaging in conversation with 45 supporters. Though undoubtedly challenging, active listening can be a tool to help us work together and start to really see and hear one another.
The recent presidential election has revealed that our country is still polarized — which means that active listening and civic dialogue are more important than ever.
In the past few months, you might have found yourself in situations where you’ve struggled to know when and how to respond to 45 supporters; like when a cousin voices support of 45’s Muslim ban at your family dinner, or a friend’s mom posts racist memes on Facebook. It can be tough to keep your cool in these situations, but take a deep breath and remember an aggressive response can undermine credibility and shut down the conversation.
There is no easy answer on how to deal with these situations, but there are some techniques, known as active listening, that will help us all be more effective communicators when we do engage in difficult conversations. Disclaimer: It is always your choice to engage! It’s a personal decision and sometimes we all need to walk away sometimes in the interest of self preservation. Setting boundaries and saying no to conversations can be exactly what you need. Only you can make that call.
When delving into these tough convos, it helps to keep in mind that everyone is entitled to freedom of speech, even if we strongly disagree. Remember, you’re going on a journey together, so it helps to try to shift your frame of mind to have a curiosity about where they are coming from.
To engage in active listening, follow these steps:
Establish Open Body Language. Enter the space, physically and emotionally, with an open attitude. Nonverbal communication (making eye contact, leaning forward slightly, mirroring facial expressions, etc.) goes a long way to establish a good rapport.
Actively Listen. Focus on listening, and try to not be consumed with formulating a response — let the person finish speaking. This makes the speaker feel valued, respected and heard.
Pause. Digest what the person has told you. Defer judgment — try not to make assumptions about the other person.
Paraphrase. Show the other person that you are attentive and trying to understand their perspective by paraphrasing, summarizing or restating their words. i.e. “It seems like you’re saying…” or “I gather..”
Ask questions. When the other person makes a statement that you may disagree with, ask questions. Try to incite them to reflect in a way they might not have before.
Voice your perspective. Critically evaluate the person’s information, but do so kindly and fairly. Tone of voice makes a huge difference — try your best not to condescend and remember to use “I statements.”
Active listening requires humility, trust and the recognition that the other party is a partner in a collective effort to understand. It can help prevent misunderstandings, open people up, and break down defensiveness. People are more likely to share when they feel respected, as opposed to when they feel put down or disregarded.
If someone is communicating in a way you find aggressive or threatening, you can ask them to speak in a softer voice and remind them you are trying to do the same, i.e. "Ok can we sit down and try to listen to one another and try to understand what each one of us is saying, I want to understand how you feel.”
Keep in mind: These moments are not about changing minds. People rarely leave on the same page, but active listening is about commitment to small acts of openness and exposing each other to different viewpoints. Hopefully we can find small openings with one another, and opportunities for more thoughtful and engaged communication.
This kind of work is not easy, but the alternative — further division and isolation — is far scarier. Active listening is a skill; and the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Listen: How To Trump Trump and Make America Greater Than Ever - The Huffington Post