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6 Keys to Handling Conflict - Pt. 6: Thought habits can be the biggest obstacle


In a previous post we mentioned how listening well is one of the greatest gifts we can give another person, because for most people feeling heard and understood is so close to the feeling of being loved, that for most these are identical. So, what makes good listening difficult? How come sometimes we easily misunderstand a person or make quick conclusions about their intent? The problem can be found in some common bad habits we have in our thoughts, creating obstacles to effective listening and understanding. See if you identify with any of these:


Obstacles to Real Listening:

Comparing - your mind gets busy comparing their situation to yours and you tend to respond by shifting the attention to your own experiences and bypassing theirs.

Mind Reading - jumping to conclusions; interpreting what they are thinking / concluding without asking them questions to clarify or confirm.

Rehearsing - while listening your thoughts get triggered and you begin to focus on your response, rather than on being attentive. Now you’re simply waiting for your turn to speak, rather than truly listening.

Filtering - you only pay attention to the parts that interest you or trigger an internal reaction, overlooking everything else.

Judging - You believe you already have their perspective all figured out and start to label them in your mind.

Dreaming - your mind strays and becomes self-absorbed.

Advising - instead of asking questions to understand, clarify, or identify what they are actually looking for from you, your thoughts and prepared responses jump to advice-giving they have not asked for.

Sparring - jumping to defensive responses or expressing quick disagreement.

The need to be ‘right’ - a resistance to hearing feedback, or a differing opinion, or any correction.

Derailing - changing subject because you’ve become uncomfortable, disagreeable, or bored.

Over-Stressed - being overloaded with tasks, or so over-invested in one’s own concerns, exhaustion, or excitement, that there is little to no room left to truly hear the concerns or experiences of others.

Pseudo-Listening - pretending to listen so people will like you, perceive you as listening, or just so that they will in turn listen to you.


How do we avoid these habits and what new habits can we develop to be better at listening, understanding, and caring? Be attentive and stay curious! This means we have to be present, remain open-minded, aim for understanding, and be willing to ask questions in order to clarify intent and meaning, and discover what they truly need from us as a friend / loved-one / co-worker / boss etc.


“When another hears us it is an actual occasion of being honoured, valued, respected as a person in our own right, an agent whose actions deserve notice, attention, and response.” (David Augsburger, Caring Enough to Hear and Be Heard)



The information on this email/blog is intended for general education purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional and/or medical advice.

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