Everyone has a horrible college roommate story—Mine starts in the same way that a lot of them do with an inconsiderate night of noise. Let’s just say her new boyfriend and her were really getting along – all night. After the third round, I gave up and got ready for class. I was exhausted and annoyed and didn’t hesitate to tell everyone who asked exactly why. That night my roommate knocked on my door and entered with her biggest meanest looking friend in tow. They looked as if they were ready to beat me up.
“I hear that you’ve been talking about me. I don’t think you should be spreading my business all over. You should talk to me,” she said in a threatening tone.
In that moment I had a choice. I could get defensive and mad and tell her how hugely inconsiderate she had been, or I could do what I did, which was to look at her and say, “You’re right and I’m sorry.”
Her whole physical demeanor changed. She was so angry and so ready for a fight that she repeated what she had said trying to instigate one. And again, I said that she was right, I wasn’t thinking and that I was sorry.
She didn’t know what to do with that. I had heard her. Instead of defending my actions or telling her what she did wrong, I owned my part and acknowledged that I had made a mistake.
No fight ensued. And although we were never great friends, we did manage to treat each other more respectfully and I certainly never felt threatened by her again.
I don’t know if I was thinking about the outcome when I responded, but in that moment I just listened to her. Instead of focusing on what I thought and my position, I actually heard hers and my response came from there. She was right – about her point – and I was wrong. My points were not the topic at that moment. That doesn’t mean I couldn’t and didn’t bring up my points later.
Sometimes we have to work with people who we haven’t chosen. What I have come to realize is that in order to be heard, you must often listen first. So next time you have been wronged; take a moment and listen even if you know you’re right. She may be right too.