Do you ever wish that you could be more influential in your relationships? Perhaps you’ve tried to talk to your spouse about spending so much money, but your efforts have only led to arguments. Or maybe you’ve mentioned to your married daughter that you don’t like the way her husband treats her, but she shuts you out when you try to talk to her.
Since you have no control over the choices of others, your only hope for influencing others is to establish a trusting relationship in which you help the person to see that a more positive outcome is possible.
Until someone feels that you have their best interests at heart, they’ll resist your suggestions. In fact, the more you press your agenda, the more oppositional they’ll become. You can’t help to solve a problem until you understand the other person’s point of view.
To increase your effectiveness in communicating with someone, you’ll need to learn to stop talking and start listening. That’s why God gave you two ears, but only one mouth.
The key to being a better listener is learning to see the world through the eyes of the other person. That requires empathizing with the story that they’re telling themselves about what’s happened to them in the past, what challenges they’re facing now, and what outcomes they desire in the future.
Your job is to temporarily set aside your own needs in order to understand the other person’s perspective. That requires reflecting back the essence of what the other person is telling you. You’ll create conflict rather than collaboration if you jump in with your own judgments or ideas instead of offering a summary of the other person’s position.
A parent who’s worried about their daughter’s marriage must first walk the proverbial mile in her shoes. Initially it’s crucial to develop a deep understanding of someone’s concerns. Does the daughter know how to assert herself in a way that leads to a win-win solution rather than an all-out war? Is she paralyzed by catastrophic thinking, jumping to the unwarranted conclusion that any conflict will inevitably lead to a divorce which will damage her children? Or are her fears of an abusive reaction realistic?
In order to build a safe and solid foundation for having a constructive conversation with someone, they must feel that you “get it” when they talk to you. If you start pushing your own point of view rather than developing rapport with people, you’re trying to force them to do what you think is right rather than finding a resolution that’s comfortable for both of you.
After reaching a mutual understanding of the other person’s present point of view, ask them what they believe would be a good outcome: “What would it look like if this situation were to work out well?” The key to successfully resolving issues involves identifying the essential elements that the other individual wants to have incorporated into the solution.
You must identify the other person’s vision of what a satisfying outcome would look like before stating your own goals or plans. People are much more motivated to find a mutually acceptable solution once they can see how they’ll get most of what they want by working out an agreement with you.
This is the time to ask the other person to reverse roles and listen to what you’re thinking: “Do you believe I understand what you want to happen in this situation? If so, I’d like you to take a turn listening to what I need in order to make this a mutually agreeable solution. That will insure that we arrive at an outcome that satisfies both of us – and that we’re each willing to work toward achieving.”
After the two of you have aligned to improve a situation, ask for specific suggestions the person believes will satisfactorily solve the problem. If they’re unsure, ask them how they’ve solved similar situations.
For example, if you’re dealing with a spending issue in your marriage, ask your spouse how they’ve successfully managed budget issues at work. How have employees established spending limits and been accountable for sticking to them? After they’ve identified those steps to success, ask them how they see those same methods working at home as well.
People are comfortable in their old patterns, even if they produce poor results. It’s useful to have a coach to help you learn how to develop mutual understanding, enabling you to reflect empathy for one another and create shared positive outcomes.