Listening and Hearing

I learned (relearned) today that everyone has his own perspective. We go to the same meeting or attend the same event, but come away with very different thoughts. Very different take-aways. Very different emotions. It is quite fascinating to watch.

But nothing new, of course.

This is always true when two people interact. It’s even true when we’re alone. Think of a book you read that really made you think or feel strongly. You can read the same book ten years later and walk away with completely different thoughts/feelings. Clearly the book itself didn’t change. You changed. You way of looking at the world (or at least at the contents of the book) changed. Depending on where we are in life, what we’re thinking and feeling and dealing with, we listen with different filters. We don’t always hear what the other person is saying, we hear what we want to hear. We listen selectively. We react to parts of what’s said and not to the whole message. This is constantly true and constantly changing.

No wonder it’s hard to interact with someone.

Now put four, five, seven people in the same room and all of this becomes exponential. It just becomes this mass of people who are all talking without realizing that the other person isn’t really hearing them. And then the other person talks and the original person doesn’t really listen. On and on it goes.

Then the meeting/get-together/event is over. And everyone walks away with completely different feelings and understanding of what just happened. This happens very often in face-to-face time. Imagine how much worse it is over email, skype, text messaging, etc.

Today’s event made me remember that I need to be more aware of this. I need to be careful when I talk that I am clear. I need to follow up to make sure the goals I had in mind were communicated properly. That the other person and I are on the same page. That there are no bad feelings or uncertainty. I am not always diligent with follow up. And on the opposite side, I need to speak up when I am not certain I follow. I need to repeat back so the other person can make sure I understood what they meant.

This all seems a bit silly but I really think it’s not. Even with my husband, whom I’ve known for almost twenty years, I sometimes misunderstand what he says. I definitely hear differently depending on my own mood and perspective. And if I do it with a person I know so well, I must be doing it so much more often with other people.

And since communication is the cornerstone of any kind of relationship, being aware of how we don’t always hear what the other person is saying is crucial.

If not, all we have is a bunch of disgruntled people thinking the other person just didn’t get them at all. Which is exactly what happened to my friends today.

What a waste.

4 comments to Listening and Hearing

  • kim

    love this! I am always saying to my husband, you might be hearing me, but are you listening? I had my first experience with this way back when I was in college. I took a class called Semantics and the professor discussed this very thing and it’s always stuck with me.

  • I am sorry I can’t express myself that well in english. I hope spanish is one of the 7 languages you can understand :).
    Muchas de las veces que he leído alguno de tus pots me ha dado la sensación que has hecho algún curso de PNL (Programación Neuro Lingüística) Hoy, por ejemplo con el tema de -escuchar-
    Desde que hice el curso de PNL soy mucho más consciente de este tema también: de cómo ponemos nuestras emociones, nuestras creencias, nuestras frustraciones, nuestro humor, etc cuando estamos escuchando a alguien. Entonces, evidentemente, es complicado que nos llegue el mensaje de la otra persona . O como tú dices: oímos lo que nosotros queremos oír.
    Recuerdo una serie de ejercicios que se llamaban “Escucha activa”.
    Realmente era alucinante cómo el simple hecho de focalizar en la persona que tenías delante, preocuparte realmente por ella/él, por lo que él/ella decía y dejar a un lado tu propio discurso mental( del tipo: “qué haré después”, “uff cuanto trabajo me espera en casa”, “lo que me está diciendo ya lo sé”, etc,)hacía que conectaras de una manera más profunda con la persona que tenías delante. Me sentía más unida y disfrutaba el doble.
    La comunicación cobra una nueva dimensión cuando escuchas activamente.
    La verdad es que me había olvidado ya de ello, y me has hecho volver a recordarlo. Gracias!:)
    Me pasa muchas veces que salgo frustrada de una conversación con un amigo/a porque no me siento escuchada, pero ahora, me hace pensar si realmente yo estoy escuchando o estoy esperando a que acabe, para empezar a hablar yo.
    Creo que el paso está en cambiar YO mi actitud de escucha en una reunión/conversación, en vez de tratar que los otros cambien la suya. Seguro que descubriré muchísimas cosas nuevas de los otros y de mí misma.
    Como se dice en PNL: “El sentido de mi comunicación es la respuesta que obtengo” 🙂

    Muchas gracias por tus post y tus reflexiones. Muchas veces me siento identificada con lo que dices (como en el post de ayer). Me haces reflexionar o ver las cosas con diferentes perspectivas. Y me encanta!
    Gracias por compartirlos!

  • Debi Boring

    Karen… You really should write a book! I’d buy it in a heartbeat! Such wise words of wisdom. John and I do the *mirroring* thing. His words very rarely are meant the way they’re said. Sometimes I even mirror back what he just said, and will say how I understand them to mean, then he’ll say… that’s not at all what he meant. Huh? Then why can’t you just say what you DO mean? LOL. If we didn’t mirror each other’s words, we wouldn’t be able to communicate too well and there’d be a ton of misunderstandings. We’ve gotten away from that so thank you for the reminder. Love your posts!

  • Betsey

    Reminds me of a quote I just used in a presentation for work- “the problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred.” (George Bernard Shaw)

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