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  • Eve Coker, PhD, LCMHC

Listening versus Demanding

I came across this image today and it reminded me of how listening can solve problems better than simply demanding.


In a nutshell, if you listen to someone else's problem, you can help them understand how to fix it or how they should behave moving forward. If you don't listen, and simply make demands or even try to intimidate others into submission, they'll just hide the problem from you. They'll very likely take unethical or manipulative steps to do whatever they need to do because, after all, they've learned they can't trust you with information.


Even though the image applies to kids, it's so applicable for adults - especially in the workplace. (Hint: Adults are basically kids in bigger bodies, just with a few brain changes)


I used to perform investigations into kids' accounts of abuse and neglect, so I'll answer the question I heard so commonly back then: What if they're lying?


The truth is that people are trying to communicate something, even when they're lying. Go along with the lie long enough and you'll figure out what that is and/or the other person will get tangled in their lie to the point that you can disprove it without alienating them from wanting to do better. Ideally, the other person can come to even trust you enough to tell you how they really feel and what they really want. Or maybe it's not even a matter of trust - they may have been taught that they're not allowed to express their feelings and needs in the first place - so they don't know how to do that (this especially includes adults).


And as for trying to demand their submission without any kind of support or kindness? You are definitely showing them that you are the enemy. One person I know changed her name and moved far away from her family after a childhood of being screamed at and bullied into compliance because "children are supposed to submit," and one CEO who drove away plenty of good talent because of the expectation that workers were expected to submit to his ego. They only pretended to listen.




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