First things first: When you start to feel that inclination to defend yourself or prove your innocence beginning to bubble up, Earnshaw says to focus instead on trying to validate the other person’s perspective.
To start, offer simple phrases that express validation of what the person is experiencing, such as “I understand why you’re angry,” or “I can hear why you would think that,” Earnshaw suggests.
And of course, don’t just say it, but really try to feel into what this person is upset about. Can you truly appreciate their concerns and, further, focus on truly understanding them in this conversation? If so, you’re already on the right track.
“When you respond to differing opinions or criticisms in this way, you are connecting with the other person and defusing the tension. This creates trust. And with trust, we open up more space for discussion,” Earnshaw explains. “The other person lets their guard down and will be more willing to hear you out, too.”