Don’t whine. Win!

The take-away on listening is not to try to advise or solve or assuage or dispute but only to offer empathy. Any time you try to advise or solve or dispute, you’re positioning yourself on the opposing side in the relationship paradigm.  When you practice empathy, you position yourself on the same side as the person you’re talking to.

Here’s a situation: A co-worker in the cubicle next to you starts complaining about the project manager, Paul. First, a not-so-good approach:

Co-worker: Paul is on my butt about the upgrade on the Randel project.  The douche bag says I’ve got to get it done by Friday.

You:  He’s just trying to get the job finished.  How about if you work on it tonight and I’ll take a look at your stuff tomorrow?

Co-Worker:  Forget it.  I’m not working tonight.  His demands are unreasonable.

You: I’ve always found him to be fair.  I’m sure if you work on it….

Co-Worker: He sucks.  I f-ing hate that guy.

In this you’re sympathizing to some degree but you’re actually disputing your co-workers feelings while helping him to solve the problem.

Co-worker: Paul is on my butt about the upgrade on the Randel project.  The douche bag says I’ve got to get it done by Friday.

You:  Wow, Friday?  That guy IS a douche bag.  Meanwhile, he’s taking two hour lunches and texting all day.

Co-Worker:  He texts all day?!

You: Yeah, he’s got some girlfriend over at Tandem Corp.  Paul is the laziest guy I’ve ever met.

Co-Worker: He sucks.  I f-ing hate that guy.

You: I’ve been saying this for years.  A real turd.

In this last one, you’re sympathizing but taking sides with your co-worker, ganging up on him and both venting your hostility.  You and co-worker are actually no more aligned or closer now than you were before.

One more time using pure empathy, identifying feelings, reflecting back.

Co-worker: Paul is on my butt about the upgrade on the Randel project.  The douche bag says I’ve got to get it done by Friday.

You:  Wow, Friday?  You sound upset.

Co-Worker:  I’m not upset.  I’m pissed.  Big difference.  I’m working my ass off while Paul texts his girlfriend all day!

You: It’s frustrating when you feel like you’re working hard and all you get for it is more work.

Co-Worker: Exactly.  I mean, it’s not that much work.  I suppose I could take a crack at it tonight and see how it goes.

You: If you want me to take a look at it tomorrow, I’d be happy to.

Co-worker: Great, man.  Thanks a lot!

You listened, you didn’t take sides, you let co-worker vent and he feels like you’re on his side (which you are but you’re also on everyone’s side.)

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