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Podcast Episode 115: The cost of NOT listening

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G’day, it’s Oscar.
This is an excerpt fromĀ How To Listen, the most

G’day, it’s Oscar. This is an excerpt from How To Listen, the most comprehensive book about listening in the workplace. It’s an excerpt from chapter one of the audiobook. The audiobook format is fascinating, it’s different, it’s distinct and I hope that I’ve honored Trina’s request to make it an impactful audiobook.

Chapter One, Why Listen? Listening is the willingness to have your mind changed. What you’re about to hear next is a completely different accent, it’s a completely different way of expressing language. Listen carefully, because what you’re about to hear next changed the world.

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Transcript

G’day, it’s Oscar. This is an excerpt from How To Listen, the most comprehensive book about listening in the workplace. It’s an excerpt from chapter one of the audiobook. The audiobook format is fascinating, it’s different, it’s distinct and I hope that I’ve honored Trina’s request to make it an impactful audiobook.

Chapter One, Why Listen?

Listening is the willingness to have your mind changed. What you’re about to hear next is a completely different accent, it’s a completely different way of expressing language. Listen carefully, because what you’re about to hear next changed the world.

Li Wenliang is an eye doctor, an ophthalmologist. Through a decade of work and study, he has built a professional reputation of care and diligence in his work and among his patients. Dr. Li is a husband and a father to a five-year-old, he and his wife are expecting their next child in a few months. When not working, he enjoys eating fried chicken and playing basketball.

Since university, he has maintained close contact with a circle of academic colleagues. On December 30, 2019 at 5:43 PM, Dr. Li has just finished reading a disturbing report from Dr. Ai, Director of Emergency at Central Hospital of Wuhan, where he works. A SARS-like influenza strain that is resistant to existing treatment protocols is emerging in the hospital. He decides to send a private message via WeChat to his university medical alumni group.

Seven confirmed cases of SARS were reported from Huanan Seafood Market.

He attaches a few medical images to his post. About an hour later, he adds to his message.

The exact virus strain is being subtyped. Remind your family members and loved ones to be on the alert.

A screenshot of his post makes its way from the private group to the broader internet. On January 3, 2020, the local police commence an investigation and following his interview, he receives a formal reprimand for spreading false information.

We now warn and admonish you about the violation of the law that you committed when you published untrue information on the internet. Your behavior is out of compliance with what the law allows and violates the rules of the public security management regulations of PR China. It is illegal conduct. The public security department hopes that you actively cooperate, follow the advice of the people’s police and stop your illegal behavior. Can you do it?

Yes, I can.

We hope that you will calm down and think carefully. We also solemnly tell you, if you are stubborn so as not to express remorse, instead of continuing to carry out illegal behavior, you will be punished by the law. Do you understand this clearly?

Yes, I understand clearly.

Dr. Li signs in black ink then places his finger in red ink and presses his fingerprint on the reprimand three times, matching his signature and where he answered, “Yes, I understand clearly.” On January 10, 2020, Dr. Li develops a cough. Unbeknown to him, he has now contracted the SARS-like influenza while treating his patients. He becomes a patient in his hospital. The virus that Dr. Li has contracted becomes known as severe acute respiratory syndrome, coronavirus 2, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19.

He fights for his life, a battle that he unfortunately loses at 2:58 AM on Friday, February 7, 2020. Before you judge the authorities in Wuhan for ignoring opinions, perspectives and facts that they could not see, hear, understand or disagree with, notice whether you tend to listen for what’s similar or what’s different. The Wuhan authorities listened exclusively for the familiar, what made immediate sense based on past patterns, education and understanding.

Listening is the willingness to have your mind changed. Ask yourself what you would have done in this situation. Would you have focused on the similar and comfortable, or would you have been open to exploring different opinions, data, insights, perspectives and possibilities? Your daily conversations might not have these same global and historical consequences, yet your ability to deeply listen impacts your relationships and your professional reputation.

For individuals, the cost of not listening is fractured relationships with others in your organizations or at home. People’s sense of isolation or disconnection grows when their manager doesn’t invite, encourage or prompt for contribution. The result is that people go through the motions and human potential is wasted.

For companies, the cost of not listening is measured in lost customers, ignored employees, unsuccessful products and services and unsustained profits. For charities, not-for-profits and for-purpose organizations, the cost is never achieving the changes they want to bring to the communities and countries they seek to serve. Government and public sector organizations who are obsessed with policy objectives that are formulated in comfortable office buildings grow detached from the daily struggles of the citizens they claim to serve. They increasingly become irrelevant institutions.

There were many opportunities to listen for COVID-19. Dr. Zhang Jixian who worked through the 2003 SARS virus noticed a viral variation in the diagnosis she made of an elderly couple on December 26, 2019. The next day, Dr. Zhang reported the variant to the local Center for Disease Control. The question is whether anyone else was listening. In June, 2020, the global death toll from COVID-19 was half a million, with 10 million cases.

In the same month, Dr. Li’s widow, Fu Xuejie, gave birth to their second son. By March, 2022, six million people had died due to COVID-19.

The cost of not listening to a different point of view between the authorities and Dr. Li will have consequences for the history of humanity. I wonder what not being listened to is costing you.

 

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