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N ‘So what you are saying is …’ N ‘What I am hearing is …’ N ‘Anything else you want to add?’ 5 You are not listening acceptingly if you N justify N argue N advise N judge N interrupt


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2. Talk constructively to share your view on the world How do you tell the other person that you feel put upon, misunderstood or that you are hurt and angry? People who are ‘honest’ in expressing themselves can find it backfires … they end up rowing and further apart.

It is not just a question of being honest, you must be honest in skilful ways.

To open with ‘I am angry with you because …’, can be provocative, as the underlying message is ‘you are wrong’. Such openings may be how you are viewing the situation but they contain value judgements and imply the other person is at fault.

–  –  –

More openness will be created by acknowledging the differences and seeking to understand the other person’s perspective.

‘We seem to have different approaches to …’ ‘Help me to understand why you want to …’ ‘Would it be a good idea to talk about … ?’ People who talk constructively, express thoughts, feelings and opinions in honest, open and straightforward ways. Remember, you are sharing your view on the world and on this person’s behaviour in particular. This is

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partial, subjective and filtered. It is your opinion and the other person will have a different opinion. You may see the person as a villain. He will see himself as a hero.

When things don’t go right, we’re often quick to blame. This is especially true if we have been storing up resentment and anger. Blame the other person and they are likely to blame you.

‘You only think of yourself.’ ‘It’s all your fault.’

–  –  –

To avoid making the other person wrong, talk about yourself and how that person’s behaviour affects you. Using ‘I’ language rather than ‘You’ language can prevent the situation getting personal.

Avoid ‘You are…’ ‘You never …’ ‘You should …’ ‘You always …’ ‘You don’t …’ ‘You make me feel …’ ‘Why can’t you …’ Say ‘I feel …’ ‘I’d prefer …’ ‘I’d like …’ ‘I need …’ ‘My concern is …’ ‘I don’t like …’


‘I believe …’ ‘As I see it …’ Talking starters You risk not being heard if you try getting your message across indirectly, through humour or sarcasm. Beware of expecting others to read your mind … tell people what is important to you and what you need. Here are some sentence starters to enable you to be not only direct but respectful.

‘I am angry that …’ ‘I want … ‘I am sad that …’ ‘I need …’ ‘I am sorry that …’ ‘I wish …’ ‘I am concerned that …’ ‘What is important to me is ….’ ‘As I see it, what this is really about …’ Beware ‘Never’ and ‘Always’ Often we speak in exaggerated terms, especially when feelings run strong.

‘You never come home on time...’ ‘You always forget to call...’ Does he never come home on time? It might feel he never comes home on time but it probably is an exaggeration. You are likely to be taken more seriously if you make accurate statements or talk feelings: ‘It feels as if you never come home on time’ ‘It feels as if you always forget to call.’ Instead of saying, ‘You are never at home’, it will be less provocative if you say, ‘I feel neglected when we are not at home together.’

–  –  –

Rather than saying, ‘You are always late’ try this: ‘When I am kept waiting, I feel unimportant.’ Try something like, ‘When I sense I am excluded from the decision-making process’ rather than ‘You never involve me in decision-making.’ ‘Always’ and ‘never’ will always (well almost always!) shift the focus away from the real issue. You have created a diversion and probably something else to row about.

Share feelings Often we confuse being emotional with expressing emotions. You can express emotions well without being emotional and you can be extremely emotional without expressing much of anything.

To say ‘I am angry with you because … ’ may provoke a response ‘And I am angry with you …’ with each person getting angrier.

This is happening because people are feeling blamed. It will be more helpful to keep the focus on yourself and what you are feeling. ‘I feel angry inside, I’m worried and confused and I need to feel we are at one on this.’ Talk to the relevant person, not everyone else.

Talk in positive terms Ever notice how when you go on a diet and you decide not to eat chips and cream cakes … what do you become obsessed with? Yes, those chips and cream cakes just won’t leave your mind.

The mind doesn’t seem to be able to handle negatives except as positives e.g. don’t think of a pink elephant and what do you get ? How big is your pink elephant!

Beware of saying things which are negative – ‘I don’t want us to fall out


over this’ or ‘This is going to be difficult.’ You may just end up getting what you don’t want! Keep focused on what you both want rather than on what you don’t want. Otherwise it will be like the golfer who says to himself as he is about to strike the ball, ‘I don’t want to hook the ball.’ The chances are, he will hook the ball precisely because of what he is telling himself. Talk about what you want rather than what you don’t want.

Talk future not past.

Past or future?

It will usually be best to talk about how you want things to be rather than what has led to the present conflict. While accepting that some people need to come to terms with a situation by talking about the past, this can also trigger bad feelings and often leads to arguing, blame and accusation.

Non-verbals Strange as it may seem, your body is part of the conversation. Research indicates that over 70% of any social interaction is non-verbal. Your body, which is never ‘silent’, communicates attitudes and feelings. This ‘commentary’ is likely to be ‘louder’ than the words.

Here are some guidelines to receptive, open body language:

1 Look at the person.

N A stare can threaten.

N Looking down or away can be interpreted as lacking confidence.

2 Speak in a calm, friendly and controlled tone of voice.

N Breathe deeply.

N Avoid mumbling.

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3 Match the other person’s energy and state.

N This will aid rapport.

4 Beware the following:

N arms and legs crossed.

N hands covering mouth.

N body facing away from the other person.

If you have a win-win mind set and genuinely want to meet the needs of the other, your non-verbals are likely to automatically communicate openness and receptivity.

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Validate Besides expressing negative feelings, talk about what you appreciate in that person. Recognize the positive intention and what he is trying to achieve.

Validate the viewpoint, needs and intention. Say ‘I know you are trying to save us money by repairing the washing machine yourself, however I have been without the machine for a week and I need to have clean clothes for the family’ rather than ‘This is typical. You can never do anything right. I knew we should have got a service engineer to do the job.’ Interruptions When someone interrupts you and won’t let you finish, you may wish to use some of the following control techniques.

Closing your eyes, putting your hand up and looking away are some nonverbal ways for getting control. It is best to combine these with expressions like ‘Please let me finish’ or ‘Hear me out.’


Really, you want the other person not only to hear but to be open to what you are saying. If you first listen to them in non-judgemental ways, you are more likely to be listened to.

Guidelines Here are some guidelines to enable you to express your view on the world and keep a collaborative relationship for win-win.

1 Talk solution rather than problem:

N Speak about how you want things to be rather than dwell on the past, what has happened, who said what etc.

2 Avoid any hint of blame, judgement or criticism:

N Beware of words like ‘You should …’ ‘You never …’ ‘You make me feel …’ 3 Talk about what you observe and see rather than what you think

or believe:

N Say ‘When talking to you and I don’t get eye contact I feel you are not interested’ rather than ‘You are not interested.’ 4 Feedback on the behaviours, never the person:

Talk about the behaviour being a problem for you rather than imply the other is a problem person … after all the behaviour is not a problem for them.

N no personal comments N no mind reading N no assumptions Solution pointing rather than finger pointing.

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5 Use ‘I’ language:

By talking about your truth rather than implying you have the truth you are less likely to appear hostile or accusatory.

N ‘The way I see it …’ N ‘My perception is …’

–  –  –

7. Use feedback to inform:

N Beware of using it to advise, blame or demand.

8. Recognize the positive intention:

N Assume the best and give the benefit of the doubt.

3 Problem-solve for mutual wins Identify needs If the listening phase does not lead to a resolution, it will be necessary to negotiate and problem-solve. The listening is likely to identify a variety of unmet needs. List these and decide on one to work with, as it is unwise to work with several issues at once.

If people don’t take time to explore needs they may deal with wants or symptoms instead of with the root cause. This is a form of patching things up and leads to continued frustration and the re-emergence of the conflict in the future.

Brainstorm solutions List several ways to meet both sets of needs on this issue. Aim to get 5 – 10 alternatives. At this stage it is best not to criticize, judge or evaluate the suggestions … so no ‘yes, buts’. Encourage wacky or way out ideas,


anything to keep the creativity flowing. Evaluation of these ideas will come in the decision-making phase.

–  –  –

Decide a way forward Look for what you have in common. Talk about what you agree about.

Create a ‘yes’ rather than a ‘yes but.’ Go through the list and mark anything that both of you are open to. This will narrow the options.

Discuss the positives and the negatives of each remaining option. As you talk you are likely to have more choices than was originally thought.

Use currencies in which you both can trade i.e. a win for both of you.

You may, in your give-and-take approach, offer things which are easy for both of you to give. Aim for minimal cost and maximum gain. An ‘elegant’ currency is one which is low cost for one person and is of high value to the other.

Agree a plan of action It is best if this plan is written down and check whether both people understand and agree to it... who will do what … how and by when.

Being specific can prevent confusion.

Set a review date to see how it is working out.

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More choices Beware of the tit-for-tat scenario which only leads to stalemate and lose-lose. If you want people to listen to you, to look for areas of agreement and to meet your needs, first listen to them, look for agreement and seek to meet their

–  –  –

needs. While their behaviour is likely to follow yours, there are no guarantees when it comes to people. But generally behaviour breeds behaviour.

How to agree If you agree with the other person, confirm it by saying what you liked and why you like it, or you may appear patronising.

How to disagree If you just counter with a different viewpoint without first validating what the other person has said, you may lose rapport and create a you versus me situation. Although some people like the directness and don’t have an issue

with counter-arguing, you are more likely to maintain rapport if you:

N validate the idea N express your reservations N seek alternatives and problem-solve Jeff: What I like about your idea is that the report will be shorter (validate) What concerns me is that the key sales figures will not be emphasised (reservations) What can we do so the key sales information is there without making the report longer? (problem-solve)

–  –  –

Arguing ‘Yes buts’ often indicate argument mode. Arguing is more likely to polarise than to persuade … people digging their heels in and defending their own positions. People become locked into their own view and are less open to persuasion. If you ‘win’ the argument, you are likely to have


lost the mind and heart and there is no sense of collaboration or understanding. Arguing is win-lose; problem-solving is win-win.

Arguing is a poor persuasion technique as you will be arguing from your own logic and value system. People move for what is important to them, not what is important to you. Make the links to the other person’s values, if you want to influence and persuade.

Respond rather than react Here are some examples of responding positively to concerns and objections. These open questions allow you to reframe the resistance and keep rapport.

–  –  –

Rules for constructive controversy Here are some guidelines for keeping the discussion free of blame, accusation and judgement.

N Be critical of ideas but not the person.

N Listen to understand, not to win.

N Recognize all viewpoints as valid.

N Be open to new perspectives.

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