It doesn't take much to go wrong in a conversation for the listening to stop. I mean, we can still hear each other but our willingness to actually pay attention to what the person is thinking and to what they are expressing falls off the edge of a cliff as soon as we get even slightly upset.
So here are 3 things to bear in mind if you want to become a better listener and have the ability to bring arguments to a swift and positive conclusion.
Start listening out for feelings and stop listening to the facts. People don't get upset about facts they get upset when how they feel (about a fact) is ignored or not respected. The mistake that we make is to keep on arguing about who's right and wrong about facts hoping that the other person will somehow change their opinion and then their feelings. But this is all the wrong way around; to change somebody’s opinion we must first help them to change how they feel.
Don't waste your time evaluating. So you've decided to listen but because you're not totally committed to listening without judging, you find yourself analysing the logic of what you are hearing. At this point you have already stopped listening. To truly listen, or empathise, you must put aside your judgement, your critical thinking and evaluation skills and pay attention to what the other person says as if it is the truth. And actually that's exactly what it is, a truth. You might think their position is wrong-headed, stupid, without any merit or sense. That just doesn't matter at this stage. All that matters is that you commit to paying attention to how the other person is feeling and thinking and to replaying that back to them at frequent intervals so that they have plenty of proof that you really are on their wavelength.
Keep your brilliant ideas to yourself. When someone is describing a problem or a disagreement between you and is still emotionally off-balance, the very last thing they need is to hear one of your bright ideas because even though your idea might indeed be a brilliant solution to their problem they are simply not in a position to accept or process what you're telling them. When we are upset or annoyed the only type of help that will work for us is to be heard, without question and without judgement. The great thing is, for solution-junkies, that within a few minutes the very person who at one point was less than coherent and utterly resistant to the thought of a solution, will start suggesting their own route out of the problem.
Listening works but empathy changes the game.