You and the opposing attorney or party may be very good communicators yet still not listen to or hear each other. The reason may be your communication styles may be so different that you may perceive each other as annoying or irritating which is not a recipe for negotiation success.
If you are a venter and your opponent communicates as an explainer, you may perceive them as lecturing you, belaboring a point, talking down to you or even shaming you or your client. If you are an explainer and your opponent is a venter you may perceive this as invasive, out of control and overly emotional according to Mark Goulston in a Harvard Business Review article.
Listening to the other side despite your different approaches can be a huge effort. It may trigger a part of your brain called the amygdala, whose impulse is to demanding all of your attentive listening and react reflexively with your hardwired reactions. Resisting the amygdala can be draining.
If you’re an explainer/belaborer and they’re a venter/screamer
Your hardwired coping skill may be to tell them to calm down which most likely will wind them up more. Your second instinct may be to shut down and become silent which may cause them to become upset because you do not appear to be listening. Lastly, you may have the instinct to begin complaining how irrational venting is which will be likely perceived as patronizing and belaboring.
Instead, remain calm, let the person vent. Focus on their left eye which is connected to the right, emotional part of the brain. State that you understand they’re frustrated, make sure you understand the important issues and reframe the conversation as to what they want to be done in the near and long term.
Repeat back what he or she said, let them know you want to make sure you understand the important topics in dispute. They will slow down; this approach will help you stay centered and in control and may earn their respect.
If you’re a venter/screamer and they’re an explainer/belaborer
Your coping skill may be to try to control your frustration and impatience which may show on your face or in your body language possibly resulting in the other side talking longer.
The other person may take this approach because in the past others didn’t listen to him or her, so they want to make sure you understand. Look them in the left eye and at least appear to be listening and paying attention. Try not to become impatient or start to fidget.
Ask what are the most important things needed to be done in the short and long term. Repeat what’s been said back to the person and make sure you have it right. Your brain may be telling you that dealing with this person is a waste of time because it is difficult to remain focused on their point and you may be viewing the other party as unreasonable, but soldier on anyway.
Goulston suggests moving ahead because the other party isn’t going to change their approach, and being open and inviting rather than closed and resistant may result in less explaining and belaboring from them.
If you take these approaches, you may be able to remain cool, calm, collected, centered and communicative in a situation that used to frustrate you with bad results for you and your client.