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The following excerpt has been taken from the new book as part of Interpersonal Edge by Daneen Skube, Ph.D. It is published by Hay House (March 2006) and available at
all bookstores or online at: www.hayhouse.com


Chapter 7
Getting People to Listen to You

"I know you believe you understand what you think I said,
but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
— Anonymous


As you become a good listener, you’ll begin to hear information that others aren’t admitting or even aware of. If you try to repeat back these denied statements, people may do a frightened-porcupine imitation and start throwing quills. Sometimes you might be wrong about what you heard, but that’s the point of paraphrasing. Go back and ask the speaker to continue providing information so that you can clarify the message.

If the person is becoming uncomfortable as you paraphrase, don’t try to nail them on admitting the truth. You’ll know that you’ve learned something valuable that the speaker isn’t ready to digest. Your new information will help you connect with and influence the person. Just murmur something that lets them off the hook like, "Well, I might not understand what you’re saying," or "This might not be the best time to talk." Make it clear that you’re open to resuming the conversation whenever they want.

Lord, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

As you see how well your listening skills are working, you’ll also be eager to ask others to paraphrase you. If you’re having a conflict, giving directions, or are unsure how your words are being interpreted, simply ask to have your words repeated back. It’s important to avoid giving the impression that you think the other person is slow witted. You can say, "I’m not sure I’m being clear. Can you tell me what you’re hearing?" or "What are you hearing me say?" These words let people know that you’re asking for help, not criticizing their listening skills.

For example, in an executive-coaching session, I was trying to tell my client Brad how he could have handled a performance appraisal more effectively. The more we talked, the more tense he became. I finally stopped and asked him, "What are you hearing me say?" He burst out, "I think you believe I really blew this appraisal, and I don’t think you appreciate that I’ve improved the way I work with this employee."

I asked Brad to expand on his thoughts about my perceived criticism and listened. I then told him I believed he’d done a great job. I specifically acknowledged the ways in which he’d improved his communication skills. I added that since he wanted to learn ways to motivate this employee, he’d asked me to point out options. Because I took the time to ask Brad what he was hearing, I was able to make it clear that I didn’t think he was inadequate. He was then able to relax, stop hearing criticism, and learn new skills.

Shifting Perceptions

There’s another magical benefit to skilled paraphrasing that encourages people to listen to you. You can actually shift the speaker’s perception of what they said. When people misunderstand you or think you’re out to get them, they can temporarily perceive you negatively and conveniently forget any past instances where you were helpful. They use words such as always or never, and see your past with them through a negative lens.

For instance, your employee doesn’t like a training seminar she attended. She comes back and says, "You always waste my time by sending me to seminars that never have anything to do with my job. Since I’ve been hired, you just give me busywork and don’t let me get ahead." But you notice that she’s forgotten anything you’ve done that was helpful and simply sees you as "mean" throughout your shared history.

Once you’re comfortable with using Basic and Advanced Ears, try employing the following two tools during conflicts to remind others that you wear a gray hat, not a black or white one.

Toolkit for Shifting Perceptions

1. Paraphrase a problem in the past tense. For example, your boss tells you that she doesn’t believe that you’re able to handle an important account. When you paraphrase, say something like, "So it sounds like in the past you have felt I couldn’t handle this account well." By paraphrasing the problem in the past tense, you make it clear that the future may be different. You put the problems in the past and open up solutions for the future.

Read the example, and paraphrase the next two statements by putting them in the past tense:

Example Statement: I procrastinate and rush through a project even when I know the deadline is approaching.

Example Paraphrase: So it sounds like in the past you’ve procrastinated and have had a problem with rushing through a project.

Statement: I’ve had feedback from other employees that you aren’t a team player and you don’t help others get their work done.
Your Paraphrase:

Statement: I don’t want to work with Zelda because she doesn’t follow through on her end of the project.
Your Paraphrase:

2. Paraphrase the problem and clarify that it’s a partial truth rather than a whole truth. For example, when an employee tells you that you never give him a raise, you can say, "So your experience has been that I’ve infrequently given you raises." Paraphrasing a problem stressing the partial nature of a statement reminds the speaker that few situations in life are truly "always" or "never."

Read the following example, and paraphrase the problems from a whole truth to a partial truth:

Example Statement: You’re always late to our meetings.
Example Paraphrase: It sounds like your experience is that I’m frequently late to our meetings.
Statement: You never get back to me with the information I request!
Your Paraphrase:

Statement: I always end up making the marketing phone calls because you never get around to it!
Your Paraphrase:

An Example of Shifting Perceptions

Brenda, a supervisor, was meeting with Joan, a difficult employee who was unhappy. "You never let me go to any workshops that advance my career," Joan complained. Brenda remembered the toolkit for shifting perceptions, and said, "So in the past you don’t believe I’ve sent you to enough workshops that have been helpful to your career?" Joan paused and had to admit that she had been sent to one or two workshops that taught her some useful skills. As they continued to talk, the conversation now shifted from blaming Brenda to Joan confessing that she really wanted to attend a specific training seminar this year. Brenda ended up negotiating higher productivity and fewer complaints from Joan in exchange for attending the workshop.

Avoiding Arguments about Truth

A good listener points out underlying emotions and hidden agendas, then shifts perceptions in order to open up possibilities for negotiation. When you paraphrase people, you help them see that their own world is only truth with a small "t" and not the Truth for everyone. We’re fond of believing that what we think should be universally true, but two individuals arguing about what’s true only serves to generate unnecessary suffering. Instead, if people owned their thoughts, feelings, and experiences, there would be much less conflict, perhaps even less war. Owning our "Truth" means that we realize that it may be ours alone, and other people may see the same issue quite differently than we do.

I remember paraphrasing a friend one time, and every time I said, "So it sounds like you think . . ." he kept responding, "No! That’s not what I think. That’s the Truth!" However, as I kept paraphrasing and using the pronoun you, my friend admitted that what he was saying was true for him. It occurred to him as I paraphrased that maybe others might be seeing the situation in another way.

Other people may not agree that it’s their opinion when you add the word you. However, it will remind you that Truth is never a good argument since "the truth" is always subjective. There’s my truth and your truth and sometimes our truth. So you’re wasting your breath if you’re trying to prove Truth.

Of course, there are times when you might get a great deal of agreement on your truth if you take a public-opinion poll. But even in situations where you could win a poll on your point of view, arguments about Truth still don’t work.

When I teach performance appraisals, I encourage managers to forget about arguing Truth with employees. Nobody wins. Instead, state what you want as your truth. For instance, most of us in the West will agree that employees should be on time for work. Well, let’s say you have a problem with a tardy employee. If you state your truth rather than arguing the Truth, you might say, "If you worked for another manager, punctuality might not be a big deal, but it’s critical for me. If employees are on time when they work with me, I trust them; when they’re late, I don’t. I realize that this is something not every employer would expect. You have the right to work for another manager who doesn’t care about punctuality. However, if you want to work for me, you’ll have to figure out how to be on time."

You’ve now avoided the entire debate about whether or not what you’re saying is true and whether what you want is reasonable. You’ve also made the employee responsible for shaping up or moving on.

Men, Passion, and Listening

Men often have trouble being really heard by women or really hearing women because most guys aren’t taught to express their feelings. I find that my male clients have unique challenges in learning to use their new listening skills to connect to the women they love. The way men are taught not to have emotions in our culture was made obvious to me one hot summer day as I watched a barefoot three-year-old boy and his father walking along a hot sidewalk. The little boy was crying because his tender feet were sizzling. The father kept saying to his son, "Quit crying and stop acting like a girl!" Exasperated, the father finally stopped, looked directly at the little boy, and told his son in a firm voice, "Knock it off! There’s nothing wrong!" Perhaps you can see why it can be very puzzling for women when we ask the men in our life what’s wrong and they say, "Nothing!"

Most women deeply crave being emotionally understood and understanding the feelings of guys they find attractive. I remember when I first started dating my husband, Bruce, I exclaimed in frustration on a fourth date, "But I really want to know about your inner life." He answered me (only half-jokingly), "What inner life?" Many men don’t realize that for women, a man’s ability to express empathy (experiencing how someone else feels) and reveal his own emotions is the essential foundation for a passionate sexual connection.

I’ve often had male clients who are considered "nice guys" puzzle over why women fall head over heels for articulate guys who are "bad boys." I explain to them that many women find emotional expressiveness extremely seductive. Women want an emotional connection so badly that they often don’t look closely at men who romance them with extraordinary listening. "Bad boys" don’t follow most rules, including the cultural idea that "men don’t express feelings," so they end up getting women’s attention. But you don’t have to be a bad boy to seduce your sweetheart.

If you’re a guy who wants passion and attention from women, then use the Advanced Ears tool to help develop your ability to express your emotions. To make it easier to figure out what your woman is feeling, the next time she’s talking, think about how you’d feel if you were going through what she’s explaining. Now paraphrase the emotions she might feel by describing what you’d feel. Keep in mind that a paraphrase or amplification is a guess, so no one will sue you for being wrong. Also realize that sometimes you’ll be right, and that it may be a touchy issue she’s in denial about. If this occurs, your honey will at least realize on some level that you know the truth.

For example, your girlfriend might say, "So, darling, I was wondering if you want to spend next Christmas with my family," when what she’s really wondering is whether you and she are a committed couple. If you just dive into a decision about Christmas, you’ll miss what she’s actually trying to say. If you use Advanced Ears, you might reply, "So it sounds like it’s important to you that the two of us spend Christmas with your family? Can you tell me more?"

My husband jokes with me that men really do need a book of translation for "women speak" because we say "Go!" when we mean "Stay," along with so many other confusing messages. If you use Advanced Ears, you’ll have that translation book that men keep looking for.

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In this chapter you’ve learned a lot:
• How to get people to listen to you by managing touchy issues many of us deny
• How to clarify misunderstandings
• Ways to shift negative perceptions of yourself by others
• Tools for avoiding useless arguments about Truth
• Why listening is one of the sexiest activities a guy can engage in with
his sweetheart

As you use your new tools to shift others’ perceptions, you’ll find that many people won’t believe that you’re qualified to change their point of view unless you can first demonstrate that you understand how they see the world. As you listen intently, you’ll be surprised to discover profound differences in how each of us perceives the same issues. You may start to suspect that it’s not just that men and women come from different planets, but that we all live in separate universes. You may then begin wondering how to bridge these vast chasms of perceptions.

In the next chapter, you’ll find out how these unique personal worlds develop as everyone grows up in different tribes (families). You’ll learn how to see these tribal differences, and communicate so that it won’t matter what universe someone else comes from—you’ll still know a language that will work . . . universally.

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