Lesson Nine: Power Listening
Sometimes when you share what’s going on inside of you in a non-blaming way, the other person gets triggered and becomes defensive. You know that’s happening when you hear a “Yes but…” response (or some variation along those lines). That’s when it’s time for Power Listening. You’ll learn about Power Listening in this lesson.
Any honest conversation about what’s going on inside of you will open one of three doors. Two of these doors offer a healthy way forward. The other brings you right back into dysfunction.
The Red Door: The Way Back to Dysfunction
When the person you’re talking to becomes defensive, they often say things like…
- Yes, but…
- Well, what about…?
- Let’s talk about you for a minute.
- And on and on
When that happens, you may be tempted to resort to defensiveness yourself. But all that does is bring you back to the Cycle of Dysfunction.
There’s a better way. Remember this…
Power Listening takes all the steam out of defensiveness.
You don’t have to return to the Cycle of Dysfunction. You don’t have to resume your old habits of reactivity. You have a choice. And Power Listening gives you that choice. Power Listening is a healthy way forward no matter how defensive the other person gets.
So, shut the door once and for all on reactivity. Learn how with Power Listening.
The Green Door: The Way Forward to Healthy Resolution
Even when someone becomes defensive, you can open the way to healthy resolution with Power Listening. This involves two things.
First, you must set aside your agenda, at least for the time being. This is important and cannot be emphasized enough.
If you plow ahead with what you want to talk about, the other person will only become more and more resistant. But if you temporarily set aside your agenda, you might be able to defuse their defensiveness.
This requires humility. And it brings us to the second element of Power Listening.
The second element of Power Listening is seeking to hear and understand the other person first before seeking to be heard and understood yourself. You do this by doing the following:
- Ask powerful questions. (What’s that like for you?)
- Invite more sharing. (Tell me more. I’m interested in hearing how that impacted you. I want to hear about how you’re feeling and what I can do to help.)
- Take ownership for whatever pain that you’ve caused them.
When you give to others what you’re seeking yourself, you’re more likely to be heard and understood. And your relationship stands the best possible chance of being restored.
You know that your Power Listening has been effective when the temperature begins to drop in the conversation and you’re able to circle back to your initial concerns. Then you can redirect the conversation by saying something like this:
I think that I’ve heard and understood you. I would like to finish talking about the concern that I have.
Power Listening really works. But it takes humility, patience, and a keen focus on your part.
But what if it doesn’t work?
The Yellow Door: Another Healthy Way Forward
You know you’ve gone through the Yellow Door when your best efforts at Power Listening don’t lead you to immediate resolution. At this point, it’s an open question if you and the other person are going to be able to resolve things. But this isn’t a hopeless situation.
When things aren’t moving towards immediate resolution, recognize that. Not every problem has to be resolved immediately. Don’t keep pushing for resolution when the conversation isn’t naturally leading there.
If the other person remains defensive, if your best efforts at Power Listening are going nowhere, then say something like this: I can see that right now is not a good time for us to try to work through this. So, I’m going to step back from our conversation for the time being. I want to revisit this again. So, I’ll circle back to you later and reconnect.
There’s nothing wrong with tabling a conversation that’s going nowhere. It’s probably the smartest thing that you can do. Don’t try to force the outcome that you want. Step back and stop spinning your wheels.
In Matthew 18, Jesus tells you what to do when another Christian sins against you. But it’s doubtful that Destiny sinned by ignoring Taylor’s suggestions in the planning meeting.
That hurt Taylor, but that doesn’t mean Destiny sinned against her.
Furthermore, Destiny’s defensiveness is not necessarily a sin. Sure, it may be a sign of immaturity, but that’s different from sin.
So, what’s Taylor to do in this case?
First, it may be worthwhile for Taylor to talk with Destiny again. It could be that her initial conversation caught Destiny off-guard. People usually don’t respond well when they’re caught off-guard. Maybe the next conversation will go better. It’s worth a try.
Taylor needs to realize that not every offense is sin.
If we tallied up sin in the scenario involving Taylor and Destiny, we would find at least two clear instances—Taylor’s gossiping to Emily and sowing seeds of division.
Things will go better if you don’t treat every misdemeanor as if it’s a felony
Be patient and gracious when seeking resolution. Things don’t always resolve immediately. And if things don’t work out the way you had hoped, make a commitment to stay in a healthy space yourself. You’re more apt to find a good way forward if you do.
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The Big Idea
Power Listening takes all the steam out of defensiveness. Give people the same grace that you’re seeking for yourself. Take the time to hear and understand them first. Then revisit your concern.