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The Power of Transformational Listening

transformational listening

You wouldn’t go backpacking for three weeks and expect to get to your destination safely without the necessary tools. You need a guide, a tent to sleep in, things to nourish you, etc. Conversations in negotiations are the same. You need to be equipped with the necessary tools to be successful.

And according to Christine Miles, questions can interfere with listening, both for the listener and the teller. But asking fewer questions can be more powerful. How?

Stop asking leading questions

Most people prepare questions in advance of any negotiation. When Christine trains organizations, she tells them that they’re only allowed to ask six questions in total. Many people feel handcuffed by this. However, when you ask the right questions, the best answers come to you.

Questions can be used to shape the story that you need. But you need to let the story open up to you. Great journalists and therapists gather stories to understand, not to shape what they want to hear. You have to stop asking leading questions because they don’t lead to good results.

If you listen well in negotiation, your client will give you the answers you need to get to a successful outcome.

Can you take me back to the beginning?

One of Christine’s favorite questions to ask is, “Can you take me back to the beginning?” People tend to lead with the problem, but you want them to go back further. That opens the door to context. If you ask your spouse how their day was and they say, “It sucked,” you can ask them how you can make their night better. But if you ask, “When did the day start to suck?” you get context. It will give you a different perspective.

You don’t have to fix everything

What happens when you don’t know how to handle what’s being shared with you? Christine notes that most people aren’t socialized to ask about feelings. We also feel like we need to fix pain rather than just bear witness. But bearing witness to pain brings you closer to solving things together. The anxiety of “I can’t make this better” often stops people from digging deeper. But you don’t need to be able to fix everything.

Transformational listening at work

Everyone thirsts to be understood. They want to learn more about their spouses, children, coworkers, etc. But people don’t know how to listen. Secondly, many people are emotionally starved. Technology has allowed for more connection but has somehow led to being more disconnected. But the hunger to be understood is leading to a selfishness to get—not to give. So many people struggle to listen because they feel unheard.

But there is hope that the world can embrace transformational listening. Christine ran a workshop with a client a few months ago. After one day of training, he had a conversation with his 16-year-old daughter, after which he got the first unsolicited hug from her in three years. He was in tears when he shared the story with her.

Christine’s goal is to create a movement of transformational listening. Learn more about the topic in episode #359 of Negotiations Ninja!