Validate the Other Side

From your own experiences you know that in an argument you like being heard.  The same is true for the other party.  Read on to learn why you should do this and the benefits of truly validating the other party in an argument.

Having been involved in debate back in my school days I was taught and oriented to start preparing my response to the other side’s argument while the other side was speaking. I did this so that I was ready to respond as soon as the other side finished their commentary.  We were being evaluated by how well we addressed each of the points made by the other side, and how well we refuted the points made by the other side under strict time constraints.  That is what we were taught to do.  Isn’t that what we normally do with an argument?  Isn’t that what we see in court room TV dramas?  Isn’t that what we are supposed to do?

Neuroscience tells us that if instead of trying to refute the other side in an argument, if we focus on remaining calm and we are focused on what the other party is saying, this goes a long way towards working towards a resolution.   By listening to the other party and validating what they are saying this makes them more receptive to your ideas as well.   If the other party is receptive to your ideas, that may make issue resolution more possible.  Similarly, if you demonstrate listening by example to the other party, this may open the other party to listening to your perspective as well.  Even if the other party is not listening as effectively to you, by you listening to them this actually enhances their ability to be more open minded to your perspective even if they are not acknowledging this.  Listen effectively with empathy really works in a negotiation.

Focus on the other person.   Pay attention to what is said, but also pay attention to how it is being said, making note of the tone and associated body language.  Pay close attention to the body language and the facial expressions being presented with the words stated.  Be careful to paraphrase what you heard the other party say in your own words.   Demonstrate not only listening, but listening with empathy.   Listen to understand the underlying interests.  When exploring multiple interests look for easy wins up front and saving the more difficult elements for later. If you can understand the various interests, prioritize them together when they are mutual and taking on the least controversial first, this may set up a pattern of interaction to make it easier to address the more complex issues later. 

Keep in mind who the ultimate decision maker is.   Hopefully it is the party you are interacting with, but this may not always be the case.  Understand what limitations this person may have as soon as possible in the session to make sure you are not wasting each other’s time, or realize that the other party may only be able to work with you up to some predetermined level. 

Great conversationalists listen more than they speak.  Silence and pauses provide the other party an opportunity to fill the gaps and provide you with more information.   You may need to ask for an example or restate what you thought was stated in a different way.  Sharing feelings and experiences goes a long way towards demonstrating understanding.  You may even begin to develop a relationship and enhance trust with the other party.  This can be transforming in nature.  Including elements of small talk can further enhance understanding while expanding your relationship with the other party.

This commentary started off with validating the other side when in a confrontational situation.  In reality rather than jumping into the task at hand, an interactive approach to “break the ice” so to speak with something as unconventional as an ice breaker may indeed set the stage for a more positive interaction with the stated agenda.   By developing relationships, exploring communication, conversation, listening, discussion and negotiation, it is possible to work through what may have initially been a conflict and develop the confrontation into a collaboration.  That is what my latest book, Peaceful Resolutions is all about.  Having completed thousands of mediations and negotiations I can tell you using these techniques have worked in some of the most trying of circumstances.  

Mike is former IRS Territory Manager that provides services based on his 28 years at the IRS and nearly five years in the private sector.  When not blogging or tweeting, Mike assists clients with conflict resolution as a solution provider, and is an avid writer, speaker and educator.  When not working Mike enjoys family, church, volunteering and daily yoga with exercise.