In my last blog article, I discussed the role of Active Listening in conflict resolution. The importance of Active Listening cannot be overstated. It is only when both people listen in this way that they can begin shifting from their hard positions to more constructive ground where they are able to meet their own needs as well as those of the other person.
Here are some techniques that I use as a mediator to help my clients “get unstuck” and move their conversations to Level 2 (Active) Listening:
Reflecting: I reflect back what I believe I’ve just heard the speaker say. This gives the speaker an opportunity to confirm that I’ve heard it correctly or, if not, to explain it differently.
Restating: I may clarify, in slightly different words, what the speaker has said, if I believe the new language is more helpful. Then I’ll check with the speaker to make sure I’ve gotten it right.
Summarizing: At certain points, I may summarize where we are in discussing key issues. By doing this, I condense the concerns of the parties to what I believe are the essential points and ask for their input to make sure we are all on the same page.
Reframing: Sometimes I may reframe a particularly abrasive statement so that I am still getting at the core of the person’s concerns without including accusations or unproductive language that tends to take the discussion back to Level 1 Listening.
My goal in all of this is to give each of the parties an opportunity to speak about their concerns while I help them clarify their thoughts – so that both the listener and the speaker has a better understanding of his or her needs. This is very much of an organic process. During any given session, we may at different times go in and out of using these various techniques. Ultimately, Active Listening helps to build trust and empathy between the parties so that they can resolve their conflict in a more satisfactory and productive manner.