Where the Solutions Are Found

I recently had the opportunity to speak during a Life Sciences PA event geared toward Patient Advocacy Groups. I was asked to share about my experience with SB983 and my legislative experience in general. As I was reflecting on the process in preparation for the event, something stuck out to me and I felt it was worthy of a post.

One of the questions asked of me was how the implementation of the bill has gone, and I was able to report that it has gone incredibly smoothly because of the work we did both before the bill even went to committee in September 2020 and before it was implemented. As a refresher, SB983 was introduced in January 2020, with COVID coming on the scene shortly after. While we waited to see what was going to happen with our bill, we held virtual stakeholder meetings to learn what those impacted by the bill thought. This included the Department of Health, the Hospital Association of Pennsylvania, the Insurance Federation, PerkinElmer (the lab that handles our Newborn Screening), and others.

Because we listened, solutions were brought forward that we hadn’t considered, and we were able to make changes that got everyone on board. In fact, the bill became stronger because we listened to understand and didn’t try to force everyone to do what we thought was best.

We listened to understand.

We worked with those who didn’t agree with our plans.

And the outcome was stronger than it would have been.

While I know that neither Congress nor the Pennsylvania General Assembly read my blog, the changes should start with us in everyday life anyway. It’s no secret that for two years now I’ve been urging others to embrace the concept of listening to understand, of not seeing the other party as an “enemy” but rather as a group that sees things differently. Having such conversations has changed my life because I realized I had been fed harmful rhetoric for most of my life and the rhetoric is wrong. The other side wants the same basic things – they just have a different approach.

At both the state level in PA and at the national level, legislators have an opportunity to set aside partisanship and work together. In fact, to accomplish anything meaningful they are going to have to do so.

But the change truly starts with us. Every one of us.

We must reject the narrative that tells us to reject those who see things differently.

We must listen to the other side with humility because there’s a chance we have been seeing things incorrectly.

Approach life and issues with the assumption that you could be wrong and see what a difference it makes. I wouldn’t talk about this so frequently if it hadn’t had such a massive impact on my life – I know it will for you, too.

“Listening to understand doesn’t obligate you to agree.”

Sharon McMahon

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