Last week I got into a tussle with my son over screen time. He has limited access to screens and specific games and he asked to play a game on my phone which my wife had deleted on hers.
He assured me that she would let him play the game and I chose to trust that. But then I had second thoughts, That she had asked him to stop playing this particular game and deleted it, so maybe he was manipulating me, trying to get something we’d already set a boundary on.
We got into conflict and locked horns, neither able to see the other’s position or being able to relate to it. I threatened withdrawal of the screen time. He became distressed, cross, resentful. Connection was broken.
You probably know how it goes.
There’s that person in your life - a colleague, a team member, a partner, a child - who doesn’t want to play along with how you see things.
They seem to drag their heels at best or are overtly antagonistic or (passive) aggressive in their communications with you.
When you have a position, the temptation is to want to persuade.
You start to make the perfect arguments in your head.
You ready yourself for confrontation.
Maybe some kind of cajoling or consequence comes into to mind.
When my son and I both settled he said this:
‘Dad you don’t understand. Mum removed that game because she thought I’d got too stressed about it. But it wasn’t that game that was stressing me. It was another. I’d love to have a go on this game again but neither of you are listening to what I’ve been saying.’
I stopped in my tracks.
Aware of the irony, as someone who teaches deep listening, how shallow my listening had got.
I had made so many assumptions about my son in that moment, I’d lost sight of the most basic of things.
I say this to my clients all the time.
Listen so you can hear the question that naturally arises within you.
Listen so you can hear beyond the content of the words.
Listen with no agenda to be right, persuade or shift opinion.
Listen with an open heart and mind.
Listen with care.
Listen with the lens that the other person is good at heart.
When we have no agenda, what comes into the space we open up can surprise.
Details we didn’t know about.
Fears, insecurities that are vulnerable and important.
Ideas for solutions we hadn’t considered or risks that weren’t on our horizon.
From that creative, generative space of listening, so much more is possible than when we have an agenda.
So if you find yourself in the energy of persuasion, take a minute to slow yourself down.
Get curious. Leave the need for an outcome at the door and be ready to wonder at what new insights emerge.