“Don’t get defensive. Get curious”

I was listening to one of Marie Forleo’s podcasts today, the one in which she speaks to Brene Brown about the latter’s book just released: Dare to Lead.

Marie and Brene were role playing a potential difficult conversation between Brene and a work partner and I heard Brene ask Marie to be her so that she can role play all of the questions she is afraid the partner would ask (what an amazing exercise!) The conversation was tough and could have gone into conflict in a split second as the partner went to the mattresses and pushed one of Brene’s buttons – her staff’s work style and her aproachability (is this a  word?).

I am sure that all of us have been in this situation in our offices. When the person in front of us (be it a parent, a client, a colleague or our boss) pushes a button by pointing to something which is not working well that we are responsible of. And these pushes usually come as generalizations: “your team is really rude”; “your school is not that academic”; “you just don’t communicate right”.

I don’t know about you but I go into a spin. I feel my stomach turn, I am flooded with electricity, I have a hard time resisting the urge to punch sometimes and I armor up to defend … whatever it is I need to defend.  I stop listening and all I do is prepare to defend.

And sometimes I defend for weeks – in my head. I take enormous pride in my work and my  team and these phrases hit me hard.

Listening to Marie and Brene’s podcast this evening made me look into a different direction: what if instead of defending, we got curious? What if instead of responding with “really, my team is rude, well, they are nothing compared to yours…” you say “that is interesting, let’s talk about that for a while. I am curious, can you please give me more details?”

Here is the catch though: do pay attention, maybe even take notes – it will help you listen to understand much more than to respond (again, maybe it’s just me … speaking from personal experience).

Get truly curious and don’t be afraid of the words “You make an interesting point, let me look into that.” or “I don’t know, let me find out.”

In a world that moves at light speed, our first instinct is to fix instantly. What if we took a deep breath, got curious, asked questions and had a genuine conversation instead? Not easy … but may prove life changing.

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