Consensus requires a desire both to share and to learn.
It requires that we listen with the intent to understand and connect, not to respond. This skill is often referred to as empathic listening. Best defined by Dr. Rosenberg, it is akin to surfing:
“Empathy, I would say is presence. Pure presence to what is alive in a person at this moment, bringing nothing in from the past. The more you know a person, the harder empathy is. The more you have studied psychology, the harder empathy really is. Because you can bring no thinking in from the past. If you surf, you’d be better at empathy because you will have built into your body what it is about. Being present and getting in touch with the energy that is coming through you in the present. It is not a mental understanding.
In empathy, you don’t speak at all. You speak with the eyes. You speak with the body. If you say any words at all, it’s because you are not sure you are with the person. So you may say some words. But the words are not empathy. Empathy is when the other person feels the connection to with what’s alive in you.”
— Dr. Rosenberg
If we can bring this presence to the table, we are halfway there. The second half is the courage to express ourselves. Dr. Brene Brown explains that the root of the word courage is cor—the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms Courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Courage is expressing our needs, our concerns, and our appreciations. It is communicating from the heart, and allowing the diversity of our unique perspective to enrich the decision.
When we combine empathic listening, and self-expression, we open the possibility for collaboration. If only one or neither is present, we find ourselves accommodating, avoiding, or competing.