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No. 60 – Hearing Feelings – 7

February 15, 2012

There are two fundamental principles for listening that are particularly difficult for health physicists, namely;

  1. Feelings are more important than what is said
  2. Listening is more important than solving problems.

When a reporter or a member of the public asks questions that seem illogical or emotional, we should be wary of attempting to correct the logic. We may find ourselves making technically logical arguments, when the real issues of concern to the reporter or her audience are conflicts in views, values, and feelings. This is not to say that we should condone erroneous technical logic, but we might do better to deal with the feelings first and get the audience on our side before attacking differences in logic.

When we address the logic first we may find that we have won the battle, but lost the war. The reason that hearing feelings first is so difficult for managers and technical professionals is that we want to analyze the situation to figure out a solution. Health physicists, in particular, are generally very adept at problem solving. This is what we are good at and this is what we get paid for. Now, there is nothing wrong with problem-solving, which is often necessary for resolving issues. However, there may be pitfalls in moving to problem-solving too quickly.

We may discover that while trying to solve the problem, we are:

  1. solving the wrong problem
  2. solving problems, when the audience is not looking for answers
  3. missing feelings, which the audience wants us to hear
  4. taking away the opportunity for others to solve their own problems
  5. not allowing others to build problem-solving skills
  6. inferring that others do not have the right, responsibility, or capacity to solve their own problems
  7. giving our answers, that others can reject with the game of “Yes, but …….”

Giving answers to problems may seem like the most expedient way to resolve the immediate issues, and that may be true. We have to consider the circumstances to determine whether a problem-solving approach will meet the needs, maintain or enhance credibility, and keep the doors open for continuing communication. As with all communications, its not a matter of right or wrong, but does our approach bring us closer to our communication goal.

One Comment
  1. jean staton permalink

    Excellent !

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