The following is Section 4 from Module 4 of “Essential Skills for Engaging Conflict”, a course that Sound Options Group developed in partnership with Oklahoma State University. These modules are a great resource to lead your team through as you work to improve your conflict engagement skills.
Some Final thoughts on Sharing your Perspective:
Asking Permission and Looping Back
We have used the habit of “Seek first to understand . . . then to be understood” proposed by Stephen Covey as a framework for this module. Two questions often arise at this point in the discussion:
- When do I know when it is time to shift from listening to sharing?
- What do I do if the other person starts arguing with what I am sharing?
Let’s take these one at a time. I believe that I have sufficiently heard and understood (Seek first to understand. . .) the perspective of the other person. I will then summarize what I have heard (Active Listening) and ask the person if they believe that I am “getting” what it is they want and need me to understand. If they say no, I might ask them to share specifically what it is that they do not think I understand. I will then summarize my new understanding and repeat my previous question; “Am I “getting” what you need me to understand?” If they say yes then it is time to make the transition to sharing my perspective (. . . then to be under understood).
This transition is brief and critical. I ask permission to share my perspective. I ask; “Would you now be willing to hear my thoughts and perspective on this issue?” I might couch this request in a restatement of my commitment to mutual purpose. In sharing my perspective I am not intending to rebut their point of view. I am interested in adding my perspective to theirs in an effort at creating a deeper, shared perspective. You can not force someone to hear your perspective. You can influence their willingness to hear by making it their choice, maintaining a commitment to mutual purpose and engaging respectfully.
This takes us to the second question; What if the other person starts arguing with what I am sharing? Despite all our best efforts the person may perceive our perspective as a rebuttal and again begin advocating their point of view. At this point I have a choice. We talked about these choices in module two. I can go on the defensive with fairly predictable results. I can also loop back into listening (seek to understand) what it is the person wants to make sure I understand. I acknowledge this understand and then return to advocating my perspective. This is not a linear process. We are in essence seeking to weave our individual perspective into a shared, integrated perspective. We are in essence taking our individual stories and weaving them into a single shared story. We will continue to expand on this notion in the next module.
As a group,use the following suggestions to increase your understanding of the transition from listening to sharing and integrating our stories:
- When you are sharing your perspective, what behavior in others tends to move you to defensiveness?
- What are the indicators you have experienced that tells you the conversation is moving from collaborative to argumentative?
- What strategies have you used to bring the conversation back in line with mutual purpose?