This was my favorite coaching lesson. I was told that if I really wanted to listen, learn and get to know a person better, when he or she says something like: 2+2=5, the appropriate answer isn’t: “No it’s 4!“, but rather: “How do you come up with that answer?”
Since that day I try (not easy!) to keep this way of being totally open to the other person’s point of view, no matter what I think. In spite of my culture, my beliefs, my experiences, my preferences, my training…I listen carefully, trying to uncover HOW the other person’s idea has merit.
It’s an excellent way to remember… If I shouldn’t try to change the mind of the person telling me that 2+2=5, or try to convince him or her otherwise, I clearly shouldn’t judge any of the statements that I hear. So I just stay open minded and say: “Tell me more…”
It changes everything…
My friend was having a problem with her child. As I was listening to the story I just said: “Who knows why he’s reacting this way? Maybe he’s going through stuff we don’t know anything about!” Since I didn’t label what the child did as being terrible and inexcusable, I gave my friend the possibility to forgive, and maybe the idea that she should investigate further before judging.
So if an employee or a colleague comes up with a solution you don’t agree with at first (especially that you had a better one!), start be saying: “Tell me more…Tell me why your idea is better than this other possibility?…What are the advantages?…” By being open to the possibility that the other person might have something good, different but valuable, to offer, you’ll listen looking for what makes sense, instead of what’s wrong with the proposition. In any case, by combining your ideas, you will probably end up with a better solution.
Don’t take my word for it…Just try it! In your professional life and in your personal discussions, this new habit is a game changer.
Trick: I often suggest to my clients to put up a sign on the wall, next to their desk, that says “2+2=5″. This way, they have a constant reminder to keep an open mind and to postpone their judgment.
People might think that you don’t know how to count, but your listening skill will be legendary!
How do you think improving this skill will help you in your day to day? Can you think of situations where you could have been more open minded? Let me know in the Comments section.