Listen to Outrage

October 22, 2018

By: Kristin Hollins

Listen to Outrage

It’s hard to listen — to really hear people — when they’re angry … and yet, it is so important to the work we do.

It’s hard to pinpoint the issues and be reasonable when it seems the people on the other end are upset — whether on the phone, on social media, in protest marches or in picket lines. Perhaps, that’s because the situations are emotional, highly charged, or it might even be because you disagree with them.

Yet, listening and understanding perspectives from all sides is one of the MOST important skills to have as communications professionals and strategic problem solvers.


Because sparking or reacting to issues is the new status quo. We live in an increasingly polarized world where people readily and vocally take sides — and they expect the companies they work for and the brands they buy from to do the same. There is rarely a middle ground.

61% of American consumers we recently surveyed said that even if they disagree with a company’s position on an issue that is important to them, they believe it is important for companies to express their views. That increases to 75% when we look purely at the responses from millennials.¹

Because demonstrating active listening is a powerful tool in and of itself. Believe it or not, consumers will give you the benefit of the doubt if you listen, and then act on what you hear. So even if you make a misstep or do the wrong thing and it prompts a strong reaction, take that first step: listen … and then act.

63% of those surveyed felt more highly about a company when it demonstrated active listening to stakeholders and implemented changes.²

Because active listening will benefit your business in a volatile environment. Our research found that the best action you can take when speaking up is showing an authentic reflection on the issue.

Nearly 80% of those surveyed indicate a high likelihood of continuing to use products/services from companies who are actively evaluating and communicating changes in policies and evolving company values.³

So, the next time your company is faced with an onslaught of outrage, do a simple thing — listen and seek to understand the reasons behind it. Insights on your stakeholders can be the key to help you illuminate and support your position, internally and externally. As one of my former colleagues used to say, “We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. And we are meant to use them in that ratio.” I would add … “Double down on that ratio when you are most uncomfortable.”

FleishmanHillard Authentic Insights will give you a sense of what issues are the most important to consumers, so you can take the first steps toward active listening on the things that matter most.


¹²³TRUE Global Intelligence. Authentic Insights Survey. 2018.

Kristin Hollins leads FleishmanHillard’s corporate reputation practice group for the Americas region. You can contact Kristin here.