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Following on from my earlier post about being “too analytical” I have became aware of how excessive attention to detail can get in the way of understanding the moral of the story or the big picture.

An associate related an anecdote to a group of us about an old woman suffering from diabetes. She buried her head in the sand and would not visit a doctor. The outcome, you guessed it, she died. He told this story to highlight the danger of not addressing our problems and seeking assistance.

I also observed the response of one of the experts in the room. He was a doctor. As my associate shared the story the ensuing conversation became comical and frustrating. To each enquiry of “what do you think happened to the old lady?” the doctor had an ever more alarming answer…she went to hospital… was put on an IV… developed gangrene… had an amputation and so it went on.

I was sitting on the edge of my seat, biting my tongue and screaming silently “she dies…just get to the point”. The doctor had been unable to suspend his training and reasoning to grasp the bigger picture. He became caught up in detail and the one way of making sense of the facts. He lacked the flexibility to recognise when such in-depth analysis was appropriate and when it got in the way.

In order to improve our communication we need to learn to be more flexible both in telling our story and in listening to others as they tell their story.

What do you need to suspend to be able to listen more intently to others? How might this serve you?

In this series see also my earlier posts Can you ever be too analytical?, The pitfalls of the compare and contrast model and; Do you suffer from “analysis paralysis”?

I’d be interested to learn of your thoughts and experiences. Leave a reply below, email directly to or call me in the UK +44 (0)20 7226 3611 or +44 (0) 7952 068133.

Photo source: By NikoLang (Own work (Screenshot)) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


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