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Listening with Understanding
in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution
Guy Itzchakov & Avraham N. Kluger
Editors’ Note: You think that you listen to your counterparts in negotiation—but do you really understand them? In this chapter, Itzchakov and Kluger offer a unique, research-based perspective on the power of listening-with-understanding, based on Carl Rogers’ theories in clinical psychology. This approach can change speakers’ attitudes, making them more complex and less extreme, and help promote more integrative solutions. The authors outline specific tools to help us all become better listeners.
The way of being with another person which is termed empathic, means temporarily living in their life, moving about in it delicately without making judgment. To be with another in this way means that for the time being you lay aside the views and values you hold for yourself in order to enter the other’s world without prejudice…a complex, demanding, strong yet subtle and gentle way of being. Carl Rogers (1980)
Human beings are eager to be listened to and really understood by the other party they interact with, whether it is a married couple who is having an argument, neighbors who are in dispute, or a worker negotiating a salary increase with her manager. Yet most of us, most of the time, are not listened to well. The poor state of human listening is unfortunate because already 60 years ago Carl Rogers, one of the fathers of modern clinical psychology, pointed at the huge potential of listening to heal individuals and to solve a multitude of societal problems, ranging from poor leadership and management to world peace. Rogers termed such listening as listening-with-understanding (Rogers 1980). Listening-with-understanding is a multi-dimensional construct that includes attention, comprehension, and relational aspects. The relational aspect, in turn, includes being non-judgmental, empathic, authentic, and respectful (Rogers and Roethlisberger 1991). Thus, the goals of our research are to provide an empirical test for Rogers' arguments, and specifically, implement his hypotheses in the field of attitude change. Our research question deals with the potential of listening-with-understanding in eliciting an attitude change for the speaker. Throughout this chapter we discuss (a) attitude structure (with emphasis on attitude complexity and attitude extremity), (b) the construct of listening-with-understanding, (c) our research on listening-with-understanding and attitude change, (d) the relevance of our study to the field of negotiation and conflict resolution, and (e) present barriers and boundary conditions for the benefits of listening-with-understanding.
A salient assumption in the field of attitudes is that attitudes consist of both positive and negative evaluations (Cacioppo, Gardner and Berntson 1997; Wilson, Lindsey and Schooler 2000; Petty, Briñol and DeMarree 2007). These evaluations form a large database with conflicting cognitions and emotions relevant to the person’s attitudes. The attitude a person holds at any given time depend on the available sub-set of data (Martin and Tesser 2013). Presence of opposite sub-sets of data usually....
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