When good communicators fail to actually hear each other, it’s often due to a mismatch of styles: to someone who prefers to vent, someone who prefers to explain seems patronizing; explainers view venters as volatile. Remember that your conversational partners do have something important to tell you – even if they’re not communicating it well.
While they talk, focus on their left eye. Remain patient. After they finish talking, say to a venter, “I can see you’re really frustrated”; to an explainer, say, “I can see that you really had a lot that you had to say.” Then continue, with either type of communicator, to reframe the conversation by defining practical long-term, short-term, and ASAP follow-up steps. Handling the conversation this way will enable you to remain cool, calm, collected, and communicative.
Adapted from “How to Listen When Your Communication Styles Don’t Match” by Mark Goulston.