I awoke on Monday morning to an angry client. It was the first day back from our vacation, and I didn't feel much like getting back into the routine of daily life, let alone dealing with someone that was majorly ticked at me.
As I listened to her rant, I thought "She hates my guts. This lady would drive a fork through my heart if she had the chance."
Instead of following my gut and yelling back at her, I listened. And listened. The longest sentence I said for 15 minutes was "I sure understand".
At the end of our conversation, with nothing in the situation fixed or resolved, she was apologizing to me for getting so angry, and saying she was looking forward to our meeting today. One hour later, we'd spent 5 minutes and resolved the situation, and were excitedly planning our next meeting together.
Later in the day, I wondered what would have happened if I had told her what I was feeling:
She was wrong.
She was rude.
She was inconsiderate.
I have no doubt we would have been on the phone for much longer than 15 minutes, and our business relationship would have been finished.
Would she have apologized, seeing what she was doing to my emotional landscape? Probably not. Would she have realized the mistakes she'd made? Definitely not quickly enough for us to have met in an hour, and accomplish anything.
I learned something that I'd always known, but constantly forget. The secret that fixes marriages, gets you landed on a national tours, and keeps nations from nuking each other:
Listen first. Then respond.