Interactive Listening Skills

How can you be sure that you understand the messages your counterpart is communicating? When negotiating, use interactive skills which include clarifying, verifying, and reflecting to be sure that you and your counterpart are on the same page:

    • Clarifying

      You are clarifying when you use facilitative questions to fill in the details, get additional information, and explore all sides of an issue. For example, “What specific information do you need me to provide?” Or “Precisely when do you want the report?”

    • Verifying

      You are verifying information when you paraphrase the speaker’s words to ensure that you understand her meaning. For example, “As I understand it, your plan is . . .”; “It sounds like you’re saying . . .”; or “This is what you’ve decided, and the reasons are . . .”

  • Reflecting

    You are reflecting when you make remarks that acknowledge and show empathy for the speaker’s feelings. To create win-win outcomes, you must be empathetic. Most of us easily feel empathy for a person who is experiencing something we have experienced ourselves. But true empathy is a skill, not a memory. Negotiators who have developed this skill can be empathetic even with counterparts with whom they have little in common. A negotiator’s ability to empathize has been found to significantly affect the counterpart’s behavior and attitudes.

    To be empathetic, you need to accurately perceive the content of the speaker’s message, recognize the emotional components and unexpressed meanings behind the message, and attend to the speaker’s feelings. Empathy is not the same thing as sympathy. A sympathetic individual adopts another person’s feelings as his own; an empathetic individual understands and relates to the other person’s feelings—while remaining detached. For example, “I can see that you were frustrated because . . .”; “You felt that you didn’t get a fair shake because . . .”; or “You seem very confident that you can do a great job for . . .”

    When you are truly practicing reflective listening, you make no judgments, pass along no opinions, and provide no solutions. You simply acknowledge the emotional content of the sender’s message. Here are some examples:

    • Sender: “How do you expect me to complete the project by next Monday?”
      Reflective response: “It sounds like you feel overwhelmed by your workload.”
    • Sender: “Hey, Mary, what’s the idea of not approving my requisition for a new filing cabinet?”
      Reflective response: “You sound upset that your request was not approved.”

    The goal of reflective listening is to acknowledge the emotion your counterpart has conveyed and reflect the content back to your counterpart using different words. For example:

    • Sender: “I can’t believe you want me to do the job in less than a week.”
      Reflective response: “You sound concerned about the amount of time you have to complete the job.”

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