Why we must listen

January 10, 2018

Our current zeitgeist seems filled with conflict. The conflict includes much of what we may hold dearest. So many others seem involved. It persists. It seeps into our places of work, both directly and indirectly, and even into our private lives and families.

Correspondingly, we find ourselves stressed, anxious and on edge. We find ourselves increasingly looking for relief and for the easiest and fastest way out of this state possible. Our explanations grow simpler and more personal. We blame others and we focus on the simplest ‘answers’, i.e., those that involve the fewest number of people and explanations possible. The simplicity of blaming provides particular appeal, rendering at least momentarily relief by locating the stress outside of ourselves, pushing aside sympathy, compassion, and empathy. Listening grows harder and listening to understand as opposed to listening to respond (or retaliate) grows even more difficult.
Here’s a short video clip of mine presenting this phenomena:

As for one alternative, especially for leaders, I offer this closing paragraph of a two-part article that Bruce Gresh and I wrote in 2016 for  Healthcare Transformation.  


“American healthcare simply costs too much for what it delivers, not necessarily in any particular case but in its entirety. That reality can easily lead to frustration, even rage, and to associated name calling, finger pointing, and silver-bullet hunting. Systems thinking would offer that America’s system of healthcare, like any other system, produces what it is designed to produce. Hence, to change American healthcare, change the system, and to change the system, first think system and then map the system.Let that thinking and mapping guide efforts to alter what the system yields. Let that thinking and mapping also guide and inform consideration and discussion of American healthcare. Let it also guide the countless and ongoing refinements that will prove necessary.”

In your experience,

What happens when individuals lose empathy for others within organizations?
What are ways you have found to combat this tendency?