How to Listen When the Topic is Sensitive

Encourage others to share by being a good listener:
o   Be sincere by using verbal and nonverbal communication that shows that you are asking questions that you want to hear the answer to
o   Ask thoughtful questions
o   Show patience and persistence by staying curious when it would be easier to either retreat or become aggressive
o   Ask follow up questions to keep the conversation flowing and on track
o   Maintain patience if the other person becomes emotional or argumentative. Help provide them with a safe harbor to peel the layers back. 
o   To the degree that it is possible, remain calm and avoid the temptation to defend yourself in a ping pong transaction. Slow things down with patience, curiosity and calmness.

When curiosity, patience and calm are not enough…
o   Ask for clarifying information so that you can fully understand their side of the issue
o   Break the cycle of blame by asking further questions to steer the conversation out of Mutual Assured Destruction and into safer waters
o   Reflect and acknowledge while maintaining curiosity. This is not a time for sarcasm!
o   Don’t make assumptions
o   Gently Paraphrase without making accusations
o   ONLY When the person is reluctant to share, it may be good to make educated guesses without assuming that you know what they are thinking…because you probably don’t
o   Learn their motivation to solve this problem and get to a mutual solution

When emotions run high, it’s time to simplify:
o   Find areas of agreement and concede and agree so that in the heat of the moment, areas of agreement don’t become offshoot arguments
o   Build on these areas of agreement. Sometimes, we have to renegotiate the goal to one that is based in mutual agreements and then build from there. And statements can be good for building goals
o   Once we agree on what we agree on, it’s time to build a checklist of what still needs to be worked out. 
o   May need a new goal or may need to review Worst Case Scenario

Avoid jumping to the solution too quickly