Stop Fighting in 30 days

Week 3: Use Your Ears to Resolve Conflicts

3. Questioning to Clarify: The listener questions (not challenges) the speaker to make sure he or she is clear on what the speaker has said. If the listener has understood, the speaker confirms that fact. If the listener is off the mark, the speaker restates his or her position, and once again, the listener asks questions until there is a meeting of minds.

If you were to diagram the Questioning to Clarify skill, it would look like loops within loops. The listener's job is to keep looping back until the speaker and the listener are on the same page -- meaning that the listener has completely understood the speaker.
Speaker: I am so sad that my boss is retiring.
Listener: You're really going to miss him, huh?
Speaker (restating the position): I don't know if I'll miss him. It's more that I won't have an ally once he's gone.
Listener (clarifying question): You mean that you will feel unprotected once he's gone.
Speaker: Exactly (confirming that a meeting of the minds has been reached).

A word of caution: A good listener does not pass judgment on what the speaker is saying. I can't tell you how many times "listeners" tell me, "But I don't agree with how he feels." I always caution listeners that feelings aren't wrong or right. Feelings are like the wind. They blow -- east and west, north and south. You never think of saying to the wind, "You are wrong to blow east." The same applies to feelings -- they need to be understood and accepted by the speaker, nothing more.

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