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I’d Rather You Not Listen

Conflicts of Interest Blog by Vivian Scott

Mediators are trained to give clients instructions that both sides must be willing to listen to each other in order give resolution a chance. I’m going to stop requiring participants to listen because listening doesn’t accomplish squat. Let me explain.

In my opinion it’s too easy to listen—or at least claim you’re listening. All you have to do is sit there. You can think about your last vacation, try to remember the 5th item on your grocery list, or clutter up your mind with any number of ponderings—all under the guise of listening. Sometimes the only real effort listening takes is staying in one’s seat and not leaving the room.

Rather than requiring my clients to listen, I’m going to ask each of them to consider what the other has to say. I believe there’s more than a subtle difference between the two. I looked to Webster’s to see what the dictionary had to say and though there are a number of definitions for the words that are quite similar, I found these two meanings particularly interesting.

Listen: to pay attention

Consider: to look at thoughtfully

Considering allows one to move from idle listener to engaged co-participant. Listening doesn’t demand much but considering requires a lot. To consider fully one must mull it over, play “what if”, ask mindful questions, create clarity, and develop ideas that start with the initial proposal but end up somewhere else. It’s hard to do that if you’re just listening.

                        author

Vivian Scott

Vivian Scott is a Professional Certified Mediator and the author of Conflict Resolution at Work For Dummies.  She spent many years in the competitive and often stress-filled world of high tech marketing where she realized resolving conflict within the confines of office politics was paramount to success.  Through creative solutions… MORE >

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