What do you mean?

Am I hearing what you’re saying, or something else?

Do you ever observe two colleagues in conflict, particularly when one is trying to convince the other? It’s eye-opening. Sometimes we forget that our audience is another human being with free will and their own perspective. It’s not enough to simply speak – we must tailor to the situation.

But too often, we’re too emotionally involved. We seek to defend our opinion or authority, rather than to have a true dialogue. I remember witnessing an interaction rife with conflict and passivity: the one assumed their logic was obvious and spoke condescendingly, and the other gave up. There was no dialogue, and you know that there was no resolution.

So, am I hearing what you’re saying, or something else? Am I hearing condescension, or – less emotionally charged – am I simply hearing a different meaning? To protect against misunderstanding, you’ll want to:

* Listen. Really listen, even if you’re speaking.
* Refrain from interrupting, unless it’s necessary for clarification.
* Stay focused – discuss the issue at hand. If other issues come up in the discussion, agree to address them following the conclusion of the present topic.
* Keep the emotion out of it.
* Ask questions.
* Restate what you’re hearing to check for common understanding.
* Listen. It’s important.

Looking for further reading? You might consider Crucial Confrontations, Crucial Conversations and The Influencer. Or, if you’d like something tailored to presentations / teaching, I love The Ten Minute Trainer.

At the Pacific Northwest Writers Association annual conference in 2007.
Actor Boyd Morrison was gracious to assist me in an impromptu roleplay illustrating a person who isn't listening to the person to whom they're trying to pitch - ironic.

Boyd, you were brilliant.


An attempted polite exit from an overwhelming conversation:

Ineffectively executed:

And the conclusion - Boyd, you were brilliant:

- Brenda Gurung


  1. Brenda -- thanks very much for your link to the Girvin blog! Great to meet you -- and congratulations on your venture. Interesting work, you're engaged in! That idea of meaning -- and attention, is something that I've explored for a long time. To the reference, and attributes of exploration, here's one to examine: http://blog.girvin.com/?p=624

    Warmest regards -- tsg

    Tim Girvin | GIRVIN | girvin@girvin.com | New York City + Seattle | Tokyo
    corporate: http://www.girvin.com | personal: http://www.tim.girvin.com/ blogs:
    http://blog.girvin.com/ | http://tim.girvin.com/Entries/index.php | mobile: +1206.890.0621


Post a Comment

Popular Posts