The important Difference between “to understand” and “to agree”

In a conversation I heard this dialog:

A: “This project makes no sense, because we are not able to handle the costs. Our customers will never pay the price of such an expensive product. The risk is too high.”

B: “No, no, no! Our customers are waiting for such a product a long time and it will generate a lot of benefits for them. They will be amazed.”

A: “You are always so enthusiastic and then, we don´t know, how we can accomplish our yearly objectives!”

B: “You are the chief worrier! With the handbrake on, we can not succeed!”.

You observe, that this conversation is rapidly escalating the level of anger.

What happened in this conversation, that it could not be fruitful for both sides?

Let´s make a little analysis.

My observations:

  • A and B are contributing with sentences, that seems to be true: f.e. „This project makes no sense …“, They will be amazed!”
  • A and B don´t respond to the content of the other one: A is speaking about costs, B about the enthusiasm of the customers, A about B´s enthusiasm and so on

My hypotheses:

  • B is responding on A´s first sentence as if he thinks A does not see the benefits of the product and the needs of the clients.
  • A thinks B is „always“ enthusiastic and with this A is responsible, that the company can´t accomplish it´s objectives.

My experiences:

  • If we don´t respond to the content of the other one we devalue his contribution by ignoring.
  • If we define the other one: „You are …“, we devalue the other one as human being.

What is missing, that this conversation will be successful?

A and B should speak “from their heart“. This means to contribute to the conversation with the clarity that this is their view: „I think that this project …“.

Both should listen and first try to understand, what is the logic behind the sentences of the other one.

I observe very often, that partners in conversation are worry to understand. They are worry to loose their position of not agreeing. They have the feeling, the other one don´t like their proposal. So they respond on their own worry, not on the logic of the other one.

This is a mystical misunderstanding.

Understanding means to try to get the logic of the other ones arguments and the logic behind his actions. When ever the other one said or did something, he had a logic behind it. And surprisingly this logic was always consistent — for him.

So we should listen and we should create our own image about what we heard. This is also a way of honoring the contribution of the other one.

And this does not mean, that we agree!

“I think I understand your argument and your intention and I have another view …”.

So the reaction of B to A´s first sentences could be: “Ok, I understand, that you see the costs are high. What means “high” for you in which relation? Can we do something to reduce the costs? Can we find out, what our clients are willing to pay?” and so on.

Do you like to get a recommendation? If yes, speak from your heart, listen and try to understand first before you evaluate the contribution of the other ones.

Conversations are always co-creation processes, if we like it or not.

Have efficient and effective conversations!

I recommend to read Katia del Rivero’s article. There you will find some more hints for conversations:

English and Spanish available.
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