DR. ICHAK ADIZES explores the art of diffusing a disagreement, especially when the other party claims that you have not understood them because you are not listening. He uses the technique of mirroring to ensure better understanding and communication.
JUST THINKING AND FEELING
It frequently occurs in discussions, when someone does not agree with you, that he or she will say, “No, no, no, no, no. You don’t understand what I said. You’re not listening.”
They appear to be claiming that if you disagree with them, it is because you’re not listening well, or you don’t understand their argument. This is often not true. You are listening and you understand what they’re saying. You just don’t agree.
The other party is intimidating you into agreeing, as if he is the genius and you are the idiot who does not understand their genius. You have to stop that person and say, “I hear you very well. Let me repeat what you said and tell me if I missed anything,” and repeat quietly without allowing interruption of the other party’s argument. That is called mirroring. Now ask the other party to validate that you did hear them well and you did understand their argument well.
After you have mirrored their argument, what often happens in my experience is that they understand their own argument better now that they have heard it from someone else, and they will start adding to or changing their argument. No problem. Repeat the mirroring. It might take several attempts to really understand them.
Be cool. Just listen and write down their argument,
systematize it into its ingredients,
so that when you mirror you are crystal clear
what their argument is, and then respond.
After they acknowledge that you do understand them well, make your counterargument. Not before they acknowledge that you have understood them.
This routine, to deal with a heated emotional argument or discussion, needs strong self-control of one’s emotions. The claim that you do not understand, when you do, can be offensive and stir an emotional response. So be cool. Just listen and write down their argument, systematize it into its ingredients, so that when you mirror you are crystal clear what their argument is, and then respond.
That is what I do, unless I lose my patience listening to someone who non-stop argues that I cannot understand their argument. They are not arguing for me to understand them; they are arguing to win the debate. To win the debate, the rules of the game are different from those of understanding the argument. In this case I disengage.
Just thinking and feeling,
Ichak Kalderon Adizes
Illustration by UMA MAHESWARI G
Dr. Ichak Adizes
Dr. Ichak Adizes is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading management experts. He has received 21 honorary doctorates and is the author of 27 books that have been translated into 36 languages. Dr. Adizes is recognized by Leadership Excellence Journal as one of the top thirty thought leaders of America.