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Why listening can sometimes lead to a dialogue of the deaf

If you want the other person to listen to you, you must be able to repeat his arguments better than he has done himself. This is the essential condition so that this other listens to you in turn.

By Michel Ghazal.

It is difficult for anyone to escape for three months to the news around the movement of yellow vests. As in a play, we are soon to act XIV and this seems to last until the European elections. All the media seized it, giving voice in the street and on the plateaux to demonstrators, government, politicians of all kinds, trade unions, local elected officials, intellectuals, sociologists, experts and lecturers of all kinds.

What do we mean?

Faced with this crisis and this conflict, everyone complains of not being listened to, not to feel understood or heard, to feel despised, rejected and cheated, in a word of absence of dialogue. Both are accusing themselves of being the cause of the problem and everyone is frustrated. Strong emotions are expressed (anger, hatred, envy) and lead to slippage and serious confrontation so much that we have witnessed scenes of unacceptable violence, urban guerrilla warfare and near-insurgency.

Even if of course professional thugs invited themselves to the demonstrations, the excesses were innumerable: destruction of the Arc de Triomphe museum, destruction and looting of businesses, destruction of tolls and 50% of radars, threats to politicians and journalists and even call for the decapitation of the President of the Republic. All this under the indulgent and complacent eye of a part of the political class whose sole purpose is to recover and attract their customers but without really succeeding.

The government's openness to dialogue, belatedly, was stifled in the bud because of the difficulty of appointing credible and universally accepted representatives. This is the first condition to resolve a crisis. To negotiate, you have to be at least two.

To sit around a table to listen and talk

To go from monologue to dialogue, it is still necessary to know what that means or not to say.

It's not

For many, feeling listened to and understood necessarily means being approved by others in their demands or proposals. To achieve this, the parties involved embark on sequences of argumentation and counter-argumentation that they refer to the figure and unfortunately only make the situation worse. In this very tense face-to-face, everyone sticks his heels in the ground, tries by all means to defeat the arguments of the other and, above all, hopes that it is his interlocutor who bends.

How often in the interviews of some yellow jackets was repeated in a loop: " We are not being listened to because Macron did not increase the SMIC by 50% as we demand it ". And when some rare journalists recall that the government has heard and removed the carbon tax, this is brushed aside: " We want more! Followed by a new list of unanticipated claims at the beginning of the movement.

Indeed, this is indicative of a triple certainty in which each part is locked up:

  • she is right and the other is wrong
  • she holds the truth
  • if there is a problem, it is inevitably the fault of the other

It is, by those who claim it, a clear refusal of dialogue. Is it surprising then that this leads to a dialogue of the deaf, to the use of the test of strength or, worse, to a general retreat?

Now, as it is written in this beautiful text Letters to Nour by Rachid Benzine read at the theater by Eric Cantona: « The opposite of knowledge is not ignorance but certainty ".

What is Dialogue and Listening?

If there are brakes to listen, it's because many confuse listen and agree. Suddenly, they are afraid and flee the exchange. Now, to dialogue is to accept putting one's certainties momentarily in brackets to allow oneself to be crossed by the point of view and the ideas of the other. This allows a better understanding of his vision and perception and can lead to an evolution of our ideas, and perhaps a change on both sides.

To really listen is to do the opposite of what is usually done. Here are some concrete practices:

  • Go from a desire to convince to a willingness to learn.
  • Practice active listening.
  • Understand each other before trying to make sense of it. For that, listen to his version first before giving his
  • Put yourself in the shoes of others to see and understand their vision of things.

In conclusion

If you want the other person to listen to you, you must be able to repeat his arguments better than he has done himself. This is the essential condition so that this other listens to you in turn. In our negotiation trainings, our participants discover that there is nothing more persuasive than being open to persuasion. But beware, a misrepresentation of the meaning of listening often leads to a misunderstanding and dialogue of the deaf. To listen is not necessarily to adhere.

When the situation is tense, what difficulties do you encounter in listening and how do you manage to overcome them? Share your experience in the comments.

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