What’s your favorite way to stop listening to someone? Ha, ha. Of course we might not consciously make this decision, but I’m willing to bet you have a habit of dealing with information or feedback that you don’t like.
Common Ways to Shut Down Conversations
Here are some of the most common ways that people stop listening:
Attack or counter argue
Change the subject
Tell the person you are getting angry or frustrated
Leave the room or hang up the phone
Pretend you didn’t hear them
Start blaming yourself (out loud or internally)
Rehearse your response and not listen fully
Sulk or start crying
The list goes on and on. You might take a second before reading on to reflect on the last argument you had (or avoided having) and notice what you did.
Disconfirming feedback or getting information that doesn’t fit with our world view, can make us stressed, angry, sad or confused. We use the above habits to stop conversations, because staying open to new data is hard work and takes practice.
So now that you’ve identified one of your coping strategies for feedback, you might ask yourself a couple of questions to determine if you feel at peace with continuing your feedback habits:
Is this way of responding in line with my morals or values?
Would I teach a child to act similarly?
How do I want to respond or social signal during an argument or confrontation?
Does my way of habitually responding to feedback help me reach my goals?
Based on your answers to these questions, you can check in with yourself about any changes to your behavior that you want to make.
How to Signal Openness
Most people enjoy interacting with others that stay open-minded during conversations, even if they disagree. There are subtle non-verbal ways to communicate openness. Being open minded in our social signaling can look like: eye brows up during a question, open and turned up palms when stating an opinion, a shoulder shrug with one’s head slightly bowed when checking in with someone’s feelings or thoughts, and turning one’s body slightly to the side and taking eye contact off momentarily when you feel a discussion get heated.
We are all going to encounter feedback that we dislike or disagree with, but the art of learning to accept feedback is a skill we can all learn. The only way to learn anything new is to get new data.
Want to learn more? Check out the ADOPTs skilll in the RO DBT Skills manual. It's all about learning to accept or reject feedback and how to socially signal according to our value-goals.