People Repeat Until They FEEL Heard

This is a psychological truism that many organisations, leaders managers and teams underestimate and it costs them dear. Costs in terms of

  • Financial and loyalty costs, as customers defect
  • Stress and staff absenteeism
  • Customer escalations
  • Complaints
  • Staff disengagement
  • Broken brand relationships and ‘us versus them’ cultures.

Before teaching this principle (and the skills to demonstrate it) in private and public sectors sometimes people say, ‘I just don’t get it when conversations go around in circles or people don’t move on emotionally’.

The managers or leaders version of this is something like, “our people just need to get on with things”, plus it means, ‘as a leader I am really uncomfortable with emotional conversations so I am going to blame others for being emotional’.

This principle and the skills involved teach that the person they are communicating with can’t move on or will remain stuck, reluctant or quietly disengaged until they’ve FELT heard (despite the best efforts and the many logical attempts others might have tried)

In the absence of the principle people tend to quickly label the ‘other’ as ‘the problem, saying, ‘we’ve had enough now’ and they give up.

It’s one of the reasons why almost every week somewhere in the world I am teaching empathy. It’s motivations, skills and fears.

The main reason why corporate leadership remain un-empathic is because they consciously or unconsciously fear it.

Getting sincere empathy across means that customers and staff feel heard and the following magical things occur

  • Customers healthily dissolve their emotions, becoming unstuck so they can move forward, are more agreeable and more likely to negotiate/compromise
  • It helps customers accept the no they are given and take-up more of their responsibility
  • Conversations don’t go around in circles
  • Staff accept change quicker and are motivated about the change
  • People don’t give up on each other so quickly and find solutions as a result
  • It’s a cornerstone of healthy conflict and non toxic cultures.

Apply it to staff and because they feel heard you have a much better chance of them being engaged rather than disengaged or neutral about their employer.

It amazes me when researching organisational culture the overwhelming response I receive to the question – how empathic is your organisation?

All too often there are negligible positive comments. And yet look at the company values or the positive intention of the senior leaders saying they desire an empathic culture.

What happens in communication instead?

I used to think I was good at empathy like so many delegates I work with. But I wasn’t because I was making the following common mistakes believing them to be empathy. Such as

  • Trying to fix problems instead of helping people to feel heard first before talking solutions.
  • Using the language of logic, steps process and justification that makes others feel unheard and disregarded.
  • When others failed to then connect with my efforts blaming them
  • Finding people to agree with me and that the ‘other person’ was the problem. A version of Confirmation bias.

What’s your motivation?

To establish empathy and  it’s bigger sister compassion we need to develop a motivation to do so otherwise there are pit falls such us

  • Fearing that empathy is weak or it will put us at a disadvantage
  • We use empathy insincerely and it fails to connect
  • We use it solely as a set of techniques rather than being genuinely interested in helping people through their emotional overwhelm.

After all hasn’t everyone experienced emotional overwhelm but doesn’t want to stay in it?

Those that fear empathy are in fact fearing this too – They don’t want to go anywhere emotional overwhelm or open the emotional can of worms. This reveals another fear which is they don’t trust their own emotions. Which means they often struggle to structure a healthy conversation in which emotions are present.

All of these are understandable fears, I’m not labelling them as wrong as these are tendencies of the design we have in our brain. Instead the question is, how do these reactions serve us?

Isn’t it a of huge service and benefit to become really good at helping each other and our customers move on? Especially through change and disappointments.

Rather than just leaving them disengaged, disenfranchised and unheard in manner that has only forced the emotion and the resulting resentment underground.

Next time you have a few moments ask around your organisation these two questions.

  • How empathic is this organisation to work in?
  • How good or not are we at healthy conflict?

These questions are two small ways to rate the current effectiveness of your organisations empathy and its ability to listen to what is really important and costly.

To create a high performance culture, one that benefits from healthy conflict and productive empathy drop me a mail at


  • Quote-background

    The main reason why corporate leadership remain un-empathic is because they consciously or unconsciously fear it.

    Glenn Bracey,
    Future Vision Training Ltd,
    25th January 2016


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