Change that sticks. Finally.

Great Conversations start with Listening. Listen to understand.

Posted May 28, 2015

We believe that you can improve your conversations with some simple ideas. Simple, not easy. We’ll talk about “frame of reference” and listening skills.

How many conversations have you had that deteriorated to (a version of) “Yes, it is!” “No, it isn’t!”? Even with people in our own team – you all have the same goals and you all have the same targets and ought to see the world in the same way. Not true.

Some wants to reduce cost, some wants to build more business. Some thinks the team-building weekend is great, some think it’s a waste of time. Some believe that the ball is blue, some claim it is red.

How is it that we look at exactly the same, and we see completely different realities?

We are all different. Reality is not what IT is, reality is what YOU are. It is subjective.

We all have a different “Frame Of Reference”. All I know is that my frame of reference (FoR) is different from yours. I have a different set of beliefs, values, needs, education and culture (family, company or national culture) than you have. I have different MBTI or OPQ profile, different religion and different experiences. You can continue this list.

Everything that fits in my frame of reference is good. It feels comfortable and I see the benefit and it feels right. Anything that’s outside my FoR is not good, it’s bad or alien or scary or not easy to understand and it feels wrong. Or I don’t even see it at all!

So how can we work together? Collaborate and co-create? When my world is different from yours?

We need to find overlaps in our frames of reference. In every conversation I have an opportunity to understand what goes on in your FoR. Not to convince or win but to understand. Be interested before interesting.

Unless I understand what goes on in your frame of reference and WHY you have the opinion that you have, it’s going to be very hard to collaborate with you.

Idea 1: Listen to understand.

Ok, so you are dedicated to be more curious about the other person’s frame of reference, and you walk into the conversation with the best of intentions.

…and you find yourself in a conversation where you KNOW that the other person is NOT listening? She is just waiting for you to finish your sentence so that she can counter with her arguments. Doing what we call “reloading the gun”? And starts her next sentence with “Yes, but…”

…so YOU find it hard to listen! And start your next sentence with: “Yes, BUT…”?

We’ve all been there.

When you walk into a conversation you are carrying a box in front of you. In this box is your frame of reference, your point of view and all the arguments you have planned. The other person is carrying her box. Both of these boxes bump into each other and they get in the way of the conversation. You only want to explain what is in your box and the other person is doing the same, what happens? Nobody listens.

You can only change yourself. So don’t even start to think: “if only the other would listen better, this conversation would be more fruitful”. Just don’t. You can change this.

Imagine a pedestal, a small table beside you. It has a nice tablecloth, it is solid and it is a nice place for boxes to be placed FOR A WHILE. Put your box there for a while. It will not disappear. It will not loose power and it will not change (unless it does :-)

Now you are ready to be interested in the others person and what’s in her box. Explore. Ask questions. You want to understand. Will your box try to jump back into the conversation? Of course it will, and you notice it when you catch yourself saying “yes, but…” When this happens – turn your attention back to her and listen to what she is saying. Ask more questions.

I hear you ask: “So what happened to my arguments – I have a job to do to influence this person. When is she going to listen to what’s in my box?” Simple. When you are interested in what’s in her box. When you show that you want to understand WHY she’s having her opinion, then she will be more interested in listening to what’s in your box. But only then.

Idea 2: Put your box aside.


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