September 14, 2019

We Need to Listen Too

Joel Nodelman

About the Author

Joel is an engineer and risk management specialist with over forty years of professional practice. He is committed to helping his clients achieve climate resiliency and sustainability.

Mid-summer is always quiet for us. Our clients go on holidays, or are working with a reduced staff. So, our email goes quiet, except for the perpetual spam. Also, the only phone calls we get are from unsolicited sales reps and the fake Google account calls we cannot seem to block. As a result, mid-summer is a good time for quiet reflection, after a busy winter and spring. With this in mind, I spent some time this week reviewing my last few posts. I noticed I have spent a lot of time talking about talking. My focus has been on keeping the climate dialogue open, because when we do, we are more likely to achieve our resilience goals. But, with all the discussion about talking, I noted I have been quiet about talking’s silent partner. To have a meaningful dialogue, we need to listen too.

Many folks are talking about climate change, but I note much less evidence of people listening to each other. While talking is fine, listening is just as important. So, to move forward, we must be open to what the other guy is saying. I believe that the key to progress is a shared understanding of the problem. With this we can all pull together towards a common goal and avoid the barriers created by arguments and perceived disagreements.  

We Reveal A Lot When We Talk - We Need to Listen Too

We reveal a lot about ourselves in what we say and how we say it. As a result, if we listen to the other guy, they will tell us what they mean, their underlying concerns, and overall agenda. Sure, you say, “They are telling you already, aren’t they?” Often we try to achieve our goals without revealing our agenda in how we talk. But, embedded in all of those words is a message we can understand, only when we listen for it. Also, only when we understand the underlying message, can we have a meaningful discussion leading to concrete action.

We Need to Listen Too

We Need to Listen to Hear the Real Message

Good Old Fashioned Guilt

Many years ago I read a book that was life altering for me, titled “When I Say No, I Feel Guilty”.  Much of the book focussed on using active listening to achieve our objectives. The other half of the book concentrated on how to create boundaries to keep the other guy from manipulating us. This is most important when their goal is making us do something that could harm us. Thus, the heart of the message was that we should resist being bullied by guilt. By doing so, we avoid doing things that go against our better interests.    

The book had a powerful impact on me. We need to listen. Also, we must express ideas in a way that supports our goals. The idea still resonates with me. Also, the message is just as important in guiding our climate discussions. Folks often try to manipulate us with good old-fashioned guilt. Often, we don’t actively listen to the other guy. But, we need to listen too to hear the real message, before we can move forward. 

It’s Not About Guilt - We Need to Listen Too

To achieve our climate objectives, we must get beyond the guilt. In fact, resilience isn’t about feelings at all. Climate change poses a real physical threat to all of us. We are at risk, and that risk doesn’t care about our feelings. The threat remains. 

When we deny climate risk, it is like denying cancer. I see people that pretend that cancer isn’t a risk, or if cancer is a risk, it’s trivial.  They say:  

"None of us get out of this life alive!"

By doing so, they convince themselves there is no cancer risk, and they are content. But, cancer is real and can get you no matter how hard your pretend it isn’t a threat. And, if it does, the pain and misery cancer causes is very real. This is not only about dying. Also, we must consider the quality of life. Ignoring risk doesn’t work!

This is the same for climate change. I contend the underlying message in most climate communication is fear. We tell each other about the fear when we talk, but we encrypt the message. We argue about  “hockey sticks”, “climate plots”, and “oil company conspiracies”. However, none of this buzz is true. Folks are echoing words because the sound of those word soothes them. The words mask the underlying fear on both sides of the debate; fear of an unknown and uncertain future. But, to recognize the underlying message we have to stop talking. We need to listen too. 

Listening is Important Too

We can identify ways to fix the climate problem. But, it all starts with knowing we are all afraid. Denial is a fear reaction and so is aggressive fighting to change behaviour. Often, while the overt messages seem in conflict, the underlying messages can be similar – “I am scared and I don’t know what to do!”   

So, while changing our ways is critical, we can only achieve our goals when we pull together. We need to listen too.

 We have a lot of work ahead of us to reach climate resilience, and we have done very little. There are solutions. We understand we must do. But, we need to listen too. Only then can we unearth the real messaging in the debate, come together, and work towards solutions. 

Call To Action

Resiliency is a choice you can make today.  So, make climate a core part of your business strategy!  

You are not alone. We are here to help and we are listening. So, ask questions.  Seek the advice of climate risk and resiliency experts.  We all have something valuable to offer.     

We provide ongoing commentary on these issues.  Feel free to contact us, we are always happy to listen to your climate, risk and resiliency concerns.  

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