Sometimes when you express your opinion, your want or your need by sending an I-Message, you will hear resistance or discomfort from the other person. You will almost always defeat your purpose if you continue to repeat your I-Message when the other person reacts negatively to it. Simply re-stating your I-Message will create even more defensiveness and their negative reaction will intensify. Failure to show concern for or acknowledgement of the other person can appear to be aggressive because what you communicate to the other person is: “Here’s what I think and I don’t really care how you feel about it.”
Dealing with the other person’s resistance is an integral and indispensable step in your communication because it lets them know that you value them and the relationship.
So when you hear resistance or discomfort, you’ll want to make a shift and back off from an assertive/talking posture to a listening/understanding posture. The key to shifting gears is empathic listening. Empathic listening or Active Listening gives the other person a vent for their feelings and an opportunity for you to understand them.
When the other person feels heard and accepted, the chances are much better than they will then be able to hear and accept your original I-Message. Another possible outcome is that you understand the other person better or find out something that you were not aware of. Furthermore, this shift from disclosing to listening sends a very important message, “I see that you’re upset and I want to hear your concerns.”
This temporary shift to the other person’s concern sets up a conciliatory atmosphere. It’s a powerful communicator of your sensitivity to, and interest in them.
Shifting gears does not mean that you let go of your own convictions or needs. Shifting gears maintains a balance between your concern for yourself and your concern and interest in others.