We often react during our conversation when a reasonable calm response is sufficient. We let our emotions, our feelings, and our prejudices take over what would have been a perfectly simple conversation. Engaging in meaningful (and successful) communication is an art and can be difficult at times.
Responding means being receptive to the other person’s feelings and emotions. It allows them to express their feelings openly and honestly without fear of repercussion. By reacting, we send the message that their feelings and opinions are not valid. By responding and asking questions, it opens a dialog that allows them to discuss their opinions and feelings further, and allows you a better understanding of where they’re coming from. Responding gives you an opportunity to work out a solution or a plan of action that perhaps they would not have come up with on their own. The other person will also appreciate the fact that you do indeed understand how they feel.
Some factors to bear in mind while responding:
- Good listening – give the other person your full and undivided attention. Make eye contact and hear him/ her out.
- Don’t discourage the other person from feeling upset, angry, or frustrated. You should be able to walk through a range of emotions to understand the story, and offer potential solutions to alleviate the bad feeling.
- Do not walk off in the middle of the conversation. This is a serious showstopper to finding any potential solution. Do not let emotions get the better of you.
- If the conversation is in a meeting, particularly discussing a divisive issue, let everyone have a turn to express their opinion.
- Do not interrupt anyone speaking. Interrupting a conversation would derail the conversation in a worse way than most other factors.
- Do not prejudice your mind or feelings before the conversation. Keep an open mind to hear out the full story in an unbiased way. We tend to undermine the opinions, feelings, or thoughts of those junior to us (children, subordinates).
- Try and narrow down the gist of the conversation and focus on the root of the conversation. If the other person does not communicate effectively and you do not narrow down to the gist of the conversation, the conversation would end up a meaningless drivel with no solution.
Just as we do, the other person has feelings and experienced difficult situations. By actively listening and participating with them as they talk about it, it demonstrates to them that we do care, we want to help and we have similar experiences of our own that they can draw from. This positive approach will enable a more effective communication. Remember, respond – don’t react.