Holding Space

by | May 1, 2023

“I get it. It sucks. Being the first to set aside the argument and attempt to understand someone, to truly listen, is a tough thing to do. It feels like a bitter pill to swallow.  But it’s also the most important. Someone has to take the first step. Someone has to be the bigger person. This is an invitation for you to be that someone.”

 Jen Underwood, Reclaiming The Lost Art of Listening


We have created a crisis of listening.

What does that mean?  Well, due to biases, preconceived notions, doctrine, impatience, or a myriad of other reasons, we simply do not listen to each other.

Now…… you are sitting there thinking “that’s simply not true in my case, of course I listen”!

But you don’t ….. and I don’t.  Think about how many times someone has started to talk to you and, long before they have finished, you feel like you need to argue or inject your own opinion.  One contemporary example is when someone is expounding on a topic on television and you realize that you do not agree.  Suddenly you are yelling at the television, arguing with an opponent that can’t hear or see you and who will not respond directly in any way.  Did you really listen?

It’s much worse if you are having an in-person interaction and the other party is not an inanimate object like the television. 

One common reaction to this observation is “so what”?  So I’m a little rude.  I just don’t have the time to suffer fools or listen to things that I know are wrong in the first place.  Are you beginning to see the problem?  We’ve grown so sure of ourselves, so polarized and entrenched in perspectives that we believe that we are always right.  That makes it very easy to dismiss any other opinion out of hand …… and to refuse to listen.

I see this more in people who possess and exercise power than I do regular folks.  The best example I can provide is directly from my book “The Intrepid Brotherhood” when I arranged to meet with our CEO to discuss how the company could strategically leverage information technology resources.  He was quite obviously not ready to listen.  He had his mind made up before I opened my mouth.  In toxic leaders, this is usually an example of the narcissism that they all seem to labor under.  The ability to listen is absolutely critical if you want to be a successful leader.   

I already quoted from Jen Underwood’s great piece on this topic. Here’s the rest:


And, a great analysis from Kbqwrites on the decline of healthy communication:

Talking & Listening: The Decline of Healthy Communication – Pyjamas & Tea (pyjamasandtea.com)

Stay Courageous,