Past the Surface Issue

When we’re listening to someone, who is new to us, tell us their concerns, we are talking with someone who is likely guarded in what they say. In the context of the electoral reform issue, people are generally aware that many are highly opinionated. That anticipation of meeting nose-to-nose, knee cap-to-knee cap will cause many if not some to shield their true opinions and share something that may be less controversial.

The message that gets shared in such a situation is likely the ‘surface issue’ or the ‘safety issue.’ This is the issue that is easiest to disclose, is least likely to be confrontational, but it may not be the one that drives their opinions and motivations.

By using reflective listening, we can get past the initial issue, and get a chance to discuss the deeper and more meaningful issue that drives their convictions. Reflective listening can take the form of re[eating what the person says; this conveys that we are actually listening to them. Then ask ‘is there more?’ By asking ‘is there more,’ they are invited to further explain the reasoning behind their initial opinion. This can uncover another ‘layer to the onion.’

When we have already begun to establish rapport, we are able to delve deeper and peel back layers. We have some more familiarity than what we had at the onset of our encounter. We’ve taken the time and taken the steps to build trust, and have done so by listening. The fruits of that listening is being honoured with them sharing a deeper conviction. We have gotten to the ‘nugget.’

We know their truer motivations. We have a clearer picture of where they stand on the issue of proportional representation. At this time we are able to focus our discussion on their concerns that really motivate them.