As we design our trainings lately, we've been talking a lot about "Investigative Communication." It's a new term that we are using to describe a process of approaching relationships with curiosity.
Most humans are pretty selfish, even though we hate to admit it. In a lot of our conversations, we are really just waiting for our turn to speak, to be heard and understood. We spend a lot of the time while the other person is speaking composing our response. So, one component of investigative communication is active listening. We must slow down, put aside our own needs and really listen to the other party. What are their needs? What are their goals for this conversation?
In order to really listen we may need to put aside other distractions. Turn the phone ringer off and turn it over. Have important conversations in places with few distractions. As convenient as they are, coffee shops are rarely a good meeting place - at least for this ADD sufferer.
And if we can't get the answers through listening, we must *investigate.*
The second component then is active investigation. We can say things that ask for confirmation of what we are hearing:
- I'm trying to understand your point. I think you said...
- If I heard you correctly...
- It sounds like you're saying.
We could take it deeper and ask:
- What's your take on this?
- How does this affect you?
- I'm curious, how is this landing for you?
- What else should I know?
Thirdly, we can express empathy. In 20th century management, empathy was a bit of a woowoo word. But I suspect good managers have always used it. Today, we can be open about the fact that humans have emotions, even at work. By bringing emotions into the conversation, we can also create room for addressing emotional needs.
- It sounds like this is frustrating for you.
- I can appreciate that this is upsetting.
- I sense that you're concerned about this.
All of these require us to set aside our ego for a few minutes and get really curious about the other person - their experience, their perspective, their possible contributions to the conversation. As with many relationship/communication paradoxes, when our conversational partner feels really heard, they often become more capable of hearing us; defenses go down and a real connection can be made.