“Well, it’s clear to me that your son does NOT have a hearing problem. He has a listening problem.”
Probably a low point in my parenting career there. But I was reminded of it by a comment from a fellow climate scientist in the context of the COP26 being held in Glasgow this week. Talking about the apparent lack of urgency to take action demonstrated by many world leaders, she said “what is it that we haven’t told them?”
In climate change, and in equality and inclusion work for that matter, I don’t think it’s about us not having told them what the issue is, or how to fix it. It’s that telling people only results in action or change when they are prepared to truly listen. However good we are at communicating, we are only part of the interaction – and we have less control than we would like about how the other person engages in that process.
As a coach I think a lot about how I listen (more on that in a future post), but I also help clients practice conversations that they are worried about having. The key step we talk about is having clarity for yourself. For example:
💡What is it that you really want (or need) this person to know after you have had this conversation?
💡What is it that you would like them to do?
💡What are you thinking might be said or happen that worries you?
Considering these questions can help people approach such conversations with more confidence so that even if they can’t control the listener’s response, they can know that they did their part in the conversation.