December 1, 2014

The line opens in the conversation

Last week in our progress-focused training course the theme of the day was 'dealing effectively with resistance and conflicts'. Throughout that day participants got the opportunity to practice, try out new approaches and techniques, and get help and feedback. We started the day, as we usually do, with a getting-into-it exercise.  We asked participants to form couples and to tell each other about a situation in which they had been satisfied with the way they had dealt with a situation in which there had been resistance or some sort of dispute. We invited them to talk about this for 15 minutes and to also reflect on what had worked in these situations.

After that, one of the participants told us about a conversation she had recently had. Beforehand, she had felt some tension about this conversation because she knew that she and the other person disagreed about the topic of the conversation. Because of that, she had prepared the conversation extra carefully. She noticed, this helped her to feel confident when the conversation began. But after that she said that she had not used or needed her preparation at all anymore during the conversation. What happened was that her conversation partner started talking and she started listening. She was full of attention and took everything the other person said seriously. She responded to everything he said and summarized what he had said. In doing that she tried her best to use the key words which the other person had used.

When she did this, an openness emerged in the conversation. When her conversation partner finished talking she started talking. When she finished talking her conversation partner responded appreciatively, to her surprise. The conversation proceed smoothly. This is what often happens. If we carefully respond to what other people have said and take their words seriously, there is a good chance that they will take us seriously, too. Another participant in the training course, who had listened to the story, nicely described what happens in such situations: "By using the other person's words the line opens in the conversation."

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