James Hoggan is an engaging and sought-after public speaker, whose lectures combine decades of PR knowledge, street smarts, spirituality and compassion.
Some of the topics Jim has spoken about to past audiences:
"I’m Right and You’re an Idiot" - What to do when conflict becomes gridlock.
"How to Mend a Broken Conversation" - The magic of dialogue.
"Failure to Communicate"- How to achieve thoughtful understanding when people don’t trust you and aren’t persuaded by facts.
Based on interviews with the Dalai Lama and other public figures, Jim talks about what happens when we deepen our own listening and engage in a conversation that affects people differently. It’s the blind spot in all leadership – and where the greatest potential impact for change lies.
JIM HOGGAN ON 'LISTENING'
I used to be a pretty bad listener. I was so busy when an employee came to me with a personal workplace concern that I jumped to conclusions about what they were talking about.
I was coached not to assume, and listen with more empathy. This advice transformed my business relationships. Not only did my employees feel like they were finally being heard, but clients also started to suddenly describe me as a good listener.
By sitting silent for longer, paying closer attention to what people were saying and trying to understand how they were feeling, I realized that listening was a skill I should work at, often.
Deeper listening can also ease the unyielding one-sidedness that dominates today’s public square.
Listening is a skill Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh says has a sole purpose of helping the other person empty their heart, and suffer less. The hard part is to not react or offer advice, but simply listen.
In his view, the trick is a sincere, silent interest in what is being said and holding off on reacting to bitterness or correcting misconceptions until another time. You let the person you are listening to “empty their heart”.
It’s easier said than done, but MIT’s Otto Scharmer, believes the open mind and heart of true listening are invaluable because “disconfirming data is the source of innovation.”
The Dalai Lama believes our destructive emotions are the real trouble makers here. We need warmheartedness to become master listeners.
The way I see it, there are three simple steps to disarming conflict through listening. It begins with an open conversation:
Encourage people to speak their mind.
Then shut up and listen. The empathy will come. When they stop talking, get comfortable with the silence. They may have more to say.
If you must say something, let it be “tell me more.” Save sharing what you believe for another time. By allowing them to talk – and actually hearing what they’re saying — real communication can then emerge.
Communication will fail unless it is a two-way process, a compassionate dialogue of the heart where both sides have something worthwhile to contribute, and each side respect’s the views of the other.
James Hoggan is a best selling author, president of Vancouver’s award winning public relations firm Hoggan & Associates and former Chair of the David Suzuki Foundation.
Throughout his career, Jim has helped business leaders and public officials navigate through the glare of TV cameras, social media frenzies and bad news stories. His expertise has resulted in many awards, including the public relations industry’s prestigious Silver Anvil for the best crisis management campaign in North America and awards for ethics in public relations.
Since hanging out his public relations shingle in 1984 he has dealt with all kinds of prickly front page, public relations controversies and crisis situations —food poisonings, labor disputes, animal cruelty charges, bodies disappearing from funeral homes, Taser deaths, multimillion dollar bank fraud, exploding sawmills and sex scandals.
He is seen as one of the gurus in his field, whether defending the reputations of prominent corporations, public institutions or the leaders who run them.
A tireless advocate for ethics in public discourse, he founded the influential online news site DeSmog that reports on public relations trickery and was named one of Time Magazine’s best blogs.
Hoggan has chaired and served on numerous national and international boards and advisory committees including Shell Global’s External Review Committee in The Hague, the Dalai Lama Centre for Peace and Education and Al Gore's Climate REALITY Project Canada.
He is the author of three books including Do the Right Thing: PR Tips for a Skeptical Public and Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming.
Jim also speaks, writes, and presents widely on the lessons in his most recent book I'm Right and You're an Idiot: The Toxic State of Public Discourse and How to Clean it Up.