Radical Listening


A recent New York Times article discussed how the health care industry was attempting to teach medical professionals the art of “radical listening”.   What is radical listening?   And why is it so important especially for professionals like doctors and lawyers.

At its simplest, radical listening is simply listening – a task easier said than done for most of us.  But for most of us in our everyday life, we struggle to just listen.   We are ready to move on to the next topic or offer up a nimble retort, etc.  Instead, radical listening is listening with the goal of understanding.  Listening without trying to get to what you, the listener, perceives as the most important.  Listening without jumping to conclusions.  It requires subduing the urge to interrupt and interject with your own opinions or biases.

Right now, experts believe radical listening is more important than ever because of our country’s deep political divides and the pandemic.  The pandemic has heightened, for many, the sense of isolation.  While mask-wearing is necessary to control the spread of the virus, masks make it difficult to see faces and read expressions.  Radical listening can help address these issues.

At the Law Offices of John Day, we have understood the importance of radical listening for a long time.  We did not know radical listening had a name but we have always understood how genuinely therapeutic and important it is for people who are suffering to feel heard and recognized.  Accidents are traumatic.  Serious injuries or the death of a loved one are life-altering.  We know that simply having someone listen to your story can be cathartic.

Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, we cannot help everyone who calls us.  Maybe the time period for taking legal action has expired.  Or maybe the case simply does not make economic sense.  In many product liability and medical malpractice cases, the cost of hiring the necessary experts to pursue the case is more costly than what you could hope to recover via settlement or trial.  Or maybe the law is unfavorable to your case.  But even when we have to tell people that we cannot help them with their case, just being able to discuss it with someone who is listening with the hope of helping can help provide some closure.  This is why we offer a free, initial consultation.  We want people to feel free to call us to find out if they have a case without worrying about how much it will cost.

Of course, when a prospective client calls us, they are seeking advice for their case.  In order to provide that advice, we need some key information from the client.  And as a result, sometimes we have to refocus the conversation and sometimes interrupt to make sure we understand what they are telling us.  Nonetheless, we are still radically listening.  Our goal is to make sure every person who calls our office, whether they hire us or not, leaves with the impression that we genuinely wanted to help.  We never want anyone who calls our office to feel like we were checking boxes or that we were not interested in their story.

Final thought: I saw the other day that NBC is going to reboot the television show, Frasier, with actor Kelsey Grammer.   On the show, Frasier Crane used to open his psychology-based radio show with the phrase: “I’m listening”.  Over here at the Law Offices of John Day, our new motto is “We are radically listening.”

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