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How to Really Listen - Part 6

What are the top causes of disagreements and how do they affect how you listen?

People vary on a continuum on the following psychological factors:

  • Tolerance for ambiguity
  • Sensitivity to disgust
  • Safe vs. unsafe worldview


When people fall on different points of these spectrums of factors, they tend not to hear and understand what each other are saying.  For example, when someone with a low tolerance for ambiguity—otherwise known as a high need for cognitive closure (HNFCC)—says something you disagree with, it’s probably derived from a discovery that matches their worldview, so they accept it. 

Note that it’s tempting to dismiss people with HNFCC as stupid. But, they aren’t. They just can’t tolerate ambiguity.

If you find yourself reacting negatively to what someone else is saying, it’s likely because you’re very different on one or more of these factors. Therefore, you’re not able to understand what the other person is really saying; instead you interpret through your lens and, as a result, dismiss the validity of their views.

I covered sensitivity to disgust in a recent post titled, Do You Think This Is Gross? People with high sensitivity to disgust find it gross, and people with lower sensitivity don’t. We can’t understand why the other is reacting the way they are, so we dismiss it.

Finally, safe versus unsafe worldview. People who grow up feeling the world is an unsafe place have learned it’s not safe to be curious. They stick with the tried-and-true. On the other side, people with a safe worldview are constantly seeking the new and the novel. 

In order to really understand another person, especially someone you disagree with, you need to learn about these factors, where you fall on them, and how to listen to someone who is different than you are.

My workshops are one way to do this. Register here to get notified when the next workshop is available. 

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Karen Tibbals @KarenTibbals

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