First Understand, Then Resolve

One of our colleagues sent us the following email upon receiving Jay’s new book Simple Steps to Change: Your Business, Your Life: “The segment below is so great it should be highlighted in bright lights. It’s so good. Should be required reading for everyone.” Here are a few excerpts along with our colleague’s favorite parts that are italicized in bold:

First Understand, Then Resolve

You need to plan for two or three conversation stages.

The goal for the initial stage is to become thoroughly familiar with each other’s point of view, thinking, and intuition. To gather this data, ask questions about anything you aren’t positive you understand and ask for confirmation that you’re correct on anything you think you do understand.

It is crucial for your understanding of the other person’s position that you help them feel safe, especially if they disagree with you or are sure you don’t understand them.

To create safety it’s better not to take an absolute stance as if you know best. You need to be equivocal in your statements and questions—meaning that you do not speak in absolutes, or as if you know something for sure.   

Listen Before You Leap

It is hard to have the patience to listen to someone when you’re pretty sure you already know what they are going to say. It can drive you up the wall if their point is obvious and they talk slowly or keep repeating each argument a number of times.

To check out that you still understand everything, ask the speaker if you heard them correctly. Repeating their main points will force you to listen. Then ask if you have missed anything.

If you want to enrich your bottom line, retain your best employees, and be on the leading edge of changes, listen patiently. Grit your teeth and pull your hair out, but listen!

Creating a Safe Space for a Hard Conversation

Here are some fundamentals for having a safe, non-confrontational conversation:

Use words and phrases that underline that you don’t know the Truth, that you only have some of the information. (This is almost always the case.) “My experience is…”, “From what I can see it looks like…”

Constantly ask questions that reflect your willingness to be corrected. “What am I missing?”, “Can you see something I’m missing?”

Do not try to convince someone that you’re right. You may be, but there is a good chance you’re only partially correct or not even quite that much.

Mostly listen and do very little talking until you understand what the other person is saying. It may help to repeat to yourself, “Listen carefully.” Or “Stop thinking of rebuttals and just listen for a while.”

Think about what assumptions you’re making and try to ask truly curious questions. “I’d like to understand better. Please share some of the information you’ve learned about why that is the case.”

Once you are fairly certain you understand each other, you need to move to the resolution conversation.

You can check out or order Simple Steps to Change: Your Business, Your Life on Kindle or softcover at

If you would like us to send you the complete section of First Understand, Then Resolve, please email us. And, if you’d like the chance to put these important skills into practice, we’re here to help you. Just call or email.