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Conflict Avoidance by Listening (Easy as Pie)

Typical Fighting... Wanh Waaaaaanh

You know the song and dance...

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Partner one says, "I'm upset about this thing that happened." Partner two says, "I didn't do anything wrong!" Partner one says, "You did xyz!" Partner two says, "That's only because you did abc!" And then the two careen into a fight that has no real beginning and no real end.

Both partners feel justified. Both partners feel vilified. Both partners leave feeling misunderstood, ignored, and frustrated.

IT SUCKS.

And while your fight may not look exactly like that, my guess is that it has its own path to destruction (e.g. somebody raises their voice, somebody shuts down, somebody name calls, somebody threatens divorce).

Here's the question I have for you, then.

If you could significantly cut down on any and all of the above by doing one simple thing, would you do it?

This thing isn't easy, necessarily, but it's pretty damn effective at avoiding the car crash of an argument that's waiting to happen between my partners one and two (see above).

Listening vs. Feeling Heard

Here's the long and short of it.

Listen to your partner until they feel heard (and before you say what you think).

I know, I know. "But I do listen to my partner!" Meh. Maybe? But, really, my guess is that you think you listen, but that doesn't mean your partner feels heard. This is a key distinction. Listening and feeling heard are not the same thing.

If you want to be heard in a conversation, you must (I repeat, must) listen first; listen until your partner feels understood and heard. You can check whether they feel heard by doing two simple things:

  1. Summarizing what you hear them saying. Literally, paraphrase what they've shared and say it back to them.
  2. Ask, "Am I understanding you correctly?" And, "Is there anything else?"

Once your partner, "Yes, that's it," then you say, "Great. I'm glad you feel understood. I'd like to share my thoughts and/or feelings and/or experience." And hopefully your partner feels comforted in being heard and then makes the space for you to share.

Boom. Recipe for a love connection.

That's just a joke, but seriously, this will help to ensure that both of you get a chance to share and be heard. And, again, this is simple, but I promise you it's not necessarily easy. Take some time to practice and make sure you share this with your partner so that they know what's going on!

Rock on, Wayne. Rock on, Garth.

Be well and good luck!