I was having a conversation with a male friend when he said something that rubbed me the wrong way. Instead of feeling offended or getting down on myself by accepting his comment as true the way I interpreted it, I remembered my good buddy WITAGR (pronounced Whittager). WITAGR, or What If There’s a Good Reason, has helped me through many misunderstandings and has become a great friend. He pops up every time I start feeling bad about myself based on a conversation I’ve had or any time I start feeling blame rise.
What I have found is that people generally have good intentions for everything they say or do. So, if I am not feeling that good intention come through, then it is up to me to seek it out to make sure I am understanding correctly their intention.
So how can you make WITAGR a good friend you ask?
Whenever we are feeling put off by someone, the first thing to do is to question assumptions we are making. It’s hard, but there is no way around it. The clue is learning to listen.
There are two ways of listening. Most of us just listen like a screening process. We listen for what we already know. We compare what we hear to what we already know and decide if it’s “right or wrong.” When you listen this way, all you are doing is validating your own opinions and assumptions. You’re not really learning anything new.
What you need to do is to listen actively. Active listening means consciously interrupting your screening process so that you can really learn new things, or new ways of looking at the old things. You have to turn listening into an opportunity to learn, put aside your assumptions and opinions, and become open to new discoveries, some of which might well challenge those very assumptions and opinions you had previously held. Active listening lets you stand in the other person’s shoes, to learn from, and about, their perspective. It lets you get inside the other person’s head to see what they’re really saying. Active listening is what gives you those “Ah-hah” moments.
How do you do that?
Follow these guidelines:
1. “Take ownership” of the situation. It’s the only way to avoid becoming a victim of your assumptions. Try to recognize your own blind spots before you judge and evaluate others. Ask yourself, “Is there something in what this person is saying that I’m not understanding?” There probably is.
2. Ask questions. Ask the person you’re listening to what they mean. What’s their opinion on the issue? How does this appear to them?
3. Use checking and framing strategies. First check whether your assumption is true? Maybe it is, but there could be more to it than you think. Then frame your question in a way that avoids putting your boss or employee or colleague— or spouse— on the defensive.
4. Don’t rationalize or screen their responses. Ask yourself whether you are having a true dialogue with the other person. If you’re in a true dialogue, if you’re really listening actively, it means you’re learning something about the other person’s perspective that you never thought of before.
5. Don’t get on the defensive yourself. “What you said hurt me,” is not a good way to get honest feedback. Take ownership of your assumptions with a phrase like, “I made an assumption about what you said to me. I just want to check and see if that’s what you really meant.”
6. If you need to remind yourself about why it’s so important to check your assumptions, ask yourself some simple questions: What is my long-term commitment here? Do I want to make this relationship work?
Bottom line – we can thrive in a masculine environment without changing who we are. If you would like more tips on how to do just that, then download my free Magnetic Influence Litmus Test where I share 4 simple questions you can ask yourself to predict your ability to influence, and how to gain that influence.