Delayed Listening

Posted 09.14.2016

Delayed Listening

Next week we are going to look at more complex listening strategies and information gathering during negotiations. But to get there, we need to talk about one more listening muscle: Delayed Listening.

In mediation and conflict resolution training we are taught about the “Four Tongues” and the “Four Ears”. That’s something we’ll examine at a later date. But one of the overriding premises is that what we hear depends largely upon our mood and the situation. Ergo, we hear the words, but not necessarily the message.

Delayed listening helps minimize misunderstands and miscomprehension. It gives us a second chance to properly interpret and to react appropriately.

The first thing to remember about delayed listening is not to react instinctively. Our instincts are instantaneous, but we don’t want to react immediately. Easier said than done, right?

No, we don’t need to take deep breaths and count to 10. Most of us aren’t very good with that Zen stuff anyway; and we certainly don’t have a lot of time for assuming a yoga position during negotiations. But we should be in the habit of carrying a pen and paper with us at any negotiation. Regardless of its simplicity or complexity, we should always have pen in hand. What we most want to write down are:

  • things we don’t understand
  • things we don’t agree with
  • things we don’t accept as factual
  • things we find insulting or hurtful

We already talked about Active Listening and ways to get the other party to simplify his or her points. As for things we find offensive, there is nothing wrong with writing down you think the other party is a jerk or scribbling down your own expletive deleted ( as long as we ensure not to show anyone else our notes!)

It will relieve a bit of anger on our part and allow you to review what was just said with a more even-tempered mind. Even by writing and continuing to listen, a few more seconds before we respond might well provide more valuable information.

It is also wise to schedule regular break intervals or excuse ourselves for a nature break. If there are others with us, this is when we can take a short moment or to compare thoughts and interpretations. If we are alone, the pause will allow us to take those deep breaths and count to ten. Either way, the results will be infinitely better than had we instinctively over-reacted.

There is one other benefit of delayed listening. Reflecting on what we heard before responding will give us a bit of time to pose the right strategic questions and think about precisely the right information to ask for that supports the other party’s position.

Yeah, listening… and even reading about listening… can be boring. But that, too, is our instinct talking.