Lessons for Living
Using Your Head and Heart

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How well do you hear other people's emotions?





When involved in a negotiation do you usually communicate with your head or your heart?

If you're trying to convey information to influence someone to make a decision in your favor, it often pays to use your head. Give facts and figures and take a logical, non-emotional approach. However, if the situation becomes emotionally charged, it pays to use your heart and focus on the feelings involved.

In a tense situation, people cannot clearly hear the facts until the emotions are acknowledged. Rising levels of anger, fear, anxiety, or frustration distract from listening because these emotions create a defensiveness that focuses people on planning what they are going to say next, rather than on hearing what is being said to them. Empathy is the best tool to overcome such defensiveness.

Empathy comes from the heart because it looks at life from other people's perspective and places us in their shoes. Empathy helps us recognize the emotions involved and to accept them in a non-judgmental manner.

Through empathy you can encourage people to talk about distressing emotions and, along the way, diffuse them. Acknowledging other people's feelings of anxiety, anger, or fear helps to dissipate them. Once emotions are brought to the surface and released, then real communication can begin because people are ready to hear what is being said.

Effective communication is more than a "Just the facts'" approach. Don't be like Dragnet's Sergeant Friday. When you communicate, use both your head and your heart, and things will go better.

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