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Is Anyone Listening?

In The News

There is always a lot going on in the world, and lately it seems like a lot more with worldwide impact.  COVID-19 outbreak, flattening the curve, economic impacts, supply chain disruptions, and as of late, the death of George Floyd leading to outcries, protests, looting, violence, curfews, and demands for justice.  Let’s not forget we are also in the middle of a Presidential election which has its fair share of dialog in and of its own.  There are many concurrent events/activities that carry with it many different perspectives, information, thought processes and emotions.  There are many different voices trying to be heard:  Loud voices, single voices, group voices, organized voices, passionate voices, calm voices, and silent voices.  All voices are powerful…yes even the silent ones.  Question is…is anyone listening?

As humans, we have the ability to use our voice as a way to clarify, influence, stimulate movement, and connect.  However, there are many times when what we desire to achieve with our voice results in something else.  Sometimes we feel we aren’t heard, or we get emotional, and sometimes we are even afraid to speak at all.  If our voice is to be used effectively, it is one of our greatest tools.  If not…then it can be one of our largest weapons.  So how do we bring disparate and passionate voices to the table in a way that is productive regardless of what you think or believe?  This is actually one of the essences of OD.

OD As A Unifier

Often we get asked, “What is OD”?  OD stands for Organization Development.  If you Google it, you will likely get a variety of similar but varying definitions.  At its core, OD is about understanding the intersection of human behavior and organizations (organizations in this case meaning different systems like corporate, social, family, community, etc.) and the interrelatedness of different systems.  It is based on a strong foundation of elevating humanity and operating in a way that does no harm – 2 core principles The Disruptive Element takes very seriously.

OD starts with voices.  What are the voices?  What are they saying?  What are they not saying?  What about these voices has the starting point of common ground?  As we practice OD, we need to stand with all sorts of thought processes, opinions, and emotions (regardless of what we think and/or believe) and ensure we get as many voices to the table and find a way to move forward together with the data in front of us.  How can the data presented be dissected, leveraged, and heard in a way that allows enough unity of thought process to find a way to move forward together?

Don’t get us wrong…this isn’t always easy.  We are human too of course!  However, it can be done, and it can be done with simple steps no matter what your role or thought process.

Voice As A Tool

During this time of a lot of voices – voices with strong viewpoints – we want to find a way to help.  We can’t be in every conversation or meet with every viewpoint, however, we hope that by providing a couple of facts and a few simple steps to use as your own tools, the power of connecting through voice will grow stronger. First, a few simple facts to help set the stage and help you stay grounded in conversations you embark. 

  1. Our brains are designed to have filters to keep us focused.  We have many filters and our filters are learned.  What is an absolute?  Not sure but our brains will make us think we know – each and every one of us.

  2. Our brains are designed to look for threat. Social threats (i.e. insulting statements made to you) are treated the same way by your brain as a physical threat.  In other words, if someone says something and you get threatened by it, you will go into a ‘fight or flight’ response.  People with loud, emotional voices might be in a threatened state (fight response).  People who are silent might be in a threatened state (flight response).  Both are real.

So, here are a couple of simple starting tips to help you move conversations from hindering to helpful:

  • If you are being intentional about listening, make sure they know you are listening.  Paraphrase back what they are saying.  Remember, being truly heard makes a difference.  You don’t have to agree or disagree with what they are saying.  Just acknowledge the fact that they are communicating with you.

  • If you are looking to make a point with your communication, ask yourself first “how best to say this in a way that allows the other person to really hear me”?  Remember, if they are threatened, they stopped listening!  It is amazing the power of a simple pause and this question before we speak.

  • If someone is emotional/passionate about their message and you don’t know what to say (or even feel threatened), try something like “Thank you for sharing” Or “I can tell that took courage for you to speak up.  Thank you for that.”  Maybe end with “How best for me to use what you just told me?” or “How can I help?”  The idea here again is not necessarily to agree or disagree but get the conversation to a point where it is less emotional (less threatening by either party) to advance it forward.

  • Being curious and asking questions helps inform us of our own filters.  Again, you don’t have to agree or disagree with their answer.  However, you never know what you might learn or discover through shared information.  Even if you think you know, ask a question anyway.  You will be surprised at what you can find out.

We hope this information is helpful as a starting point.  Please know we are here to help.  We wish you all safety, health, love, and the benefits of a strong, unity community.  Let voices be heard and used to cause no harm.


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