This may sound obvious, but it doesn't happen nearly often enough. Let's consider these four key ingredients:
1. Listening. Genuine conversations begin here. Active listening requires focusing on the other person and blocking out distractions. As the other person speaks, you should be able to repeat and paraphrase their comments in your own mind. Your level of awareness will guide what happens next.
2. Relating. What you hear must "connect" with you in some manner, so that you can relate what is being said to the situation and your own perspective. It's not necessary to agree, but it is necessary to at least appreciate the views of the other person.
3. Responding. Your response, both in words and body language, should be based upon confirmation of what you heard and how you both relate to the topic. To react without these elements results in misinterpreting or, even worse, escalating of a tense situation.
4. Understanding. For a conversation to be meaningful, a sense of understanding must emerge. This is not the same as agreement, although it is a true bonus when that occurs! Sometimes to "agree to disagree" is a fair result, but that outcome should only be considered valid if careful listening and relating have been employed.
These principles are at the heart of ALL conversations that matter, on both personal and professional levels. Unfortunately, most of the political discourse today is devoid of these elements; so much more could be accomplished with a more thoughtful and open-minded approach.
Slowing down your pace and then focusing on Listening, Relating, Responding and Understanding will produce more conversations that matter. You'll be happier too.