People rarely listen with the intent to hear. They contemplate their own response to what is being said to them as it is being said. FACT.
The end result of this phenomena is that, when they do respond, they very often say something that isn’t really pertinent to the conversation at hand. Something that likely distorts the meaning of what has just been said to them.
It probably sounds like I’m criticizing people who engage in this behavior. But I assure you I am not. As a matter of fact, I believe every one of us is guilty of this little flaw in human communication, at least occasionally. It is simply human nature.
With that said … there is no doubt that it does indeed drive me a little bonkers. It is not something to get used to, or accept. It is something to change.
I recall when I first became aware of this common communication faux pas. What feels like many moons ago now, my son embarked on a little python breeding venture. This didn’t make me the happiest mom in the world. I wasn’t thrilled with having a house full of snakes. BUT he was learning a great deal, passionate about what he was doing, and fully engaged in a pretty profitable little business venture at the young age of 16.
So I sucked it up 😉
As he became more and more successful, it was clear that he needed a space in the house designated just for breeding these slithery creatures he had become so fond of. So I stored the dining room table. Moved the living room furniture into the dining room. And gave him that space to set up his breeding habitats.
Eventually, he rented his own house and, much to my delight, the breeding room was moved to the basement there. So I moved the living room furniture back to its rightful home. Brought the dining room table out of storage and restored order in my personal space.
One afternoon, not too long after my living areas were returned to their previous glory, a friend stopped by to visit. As we were chatting, she mentioned that there was a storm rolling in later that day. It was expected to be a wicked one. A good ol’ fashioned NorEaster.
She commented that it was all over the news and suggested I turn on the weather channel.
It was in that moment that I realized ,I had no cable service because I hadn’t switched the wires over in the cable box outside. The service was still being channeled to the dining room. I hadn’t even thought about turning the television on. I had so little interest in it that it hadn’t occurred to me to deal with it on any level.
It was one of those ‘Aha’ moments. And I was pretty fascinated by the fact that it meant so little to me at that point. It was something I had been striving toward. So, this was a victory for sure.
I chuckled a bit as I explained what had happened and commented that I needed to make a call to the cable company and change my services. The whole thing had been so far off my radar that, I’d been paying for a full cable package when I didn’t even have my TV hooked up for about three months at that point!
My friend didn’t share my amusement. As a matter of fact, she got a little concerned. Somehow what she had heard me say was that, I was paying for cable which I was unable to access because I didn’t know how to switch the wires over. Or maybe she heard me say that I needed to cancel my cable service because I couldn’t afford it. I’m not sure what she thought, but it was abundantly clear by her reaction that she felt I was in a state of either financial or DIY distress and had no one to help me.
Hmmmmmmmm … that’s not what I said. Not at all.
It was after this incident that I began to pay attention to how little others actually hear when you have a conversation with them.
My counseling education had taught me that this communication flaw is common. Or at least it had given me the intellectual knowledge that this communication flaw is common. The practical application of this knowledge had just begun in my cable transfer mishap incident.
The miscommunication that arises from people’s inclination to listen with the intent of responding can be troubling in counseling situations. Therefore, it is one of the things that a counselor has to keep on top of, by making sure there is a clear understanding of the information being passed between them and their clients. It is one of the primary reasons they like to hear their clients repeat back to them what has been communicated in a session. How they repeat it, provides the counselor with a clear indication of how they’ve interpreted what’s been discussed.
And yet, even wielding this knowledge, I had simply labeled the behavior as a sort of fall out of discussing topics which cause discomfort and/or stress. I believed it happened primarily when people didn’t want to hear what was being said to them. When they were unwilling (or unable) to face the reality of a personal situation or relationship.
It didn’t really register in my brain that this is often just the result of one not really listening to what is being said to them. It is simply because the whole time another person is talking to them, they are planning their response rather than listening. And they start formulating that response just a few words into the conversation. Making it so that when they do finally speak, it is clear that they have missed major points of the conversation completely.
The cable transfer mishap caused me to look at this topic in a completely different light. It lifted the veil in my mind that hid how prevalent this communication faux pas is in the average human. And as I began to pay more attention to my daily interactions, the regularity of this miscommunication style in the human race glared at me. It couldn’t be denied. It could no longer be overlooked on my part.
The TV continued to be the perfect topic for these observations. I never did hook it up. As a matter of fact, I moved from that big old house into a small apartment and never even brought a TV into my new space. I didn’t have one for years after that.
Eventually, I did pick up a set while I was on the west coast. But I never even hooked it up to cable. I used it to watch movies throughout the looooooong rainy season out there.
There is a set in my home here in Maine as well. Also not hooked up to cable. We sometimes use it to watch netflix or to broadcast pandora when we’re hanging out at home.
I can’t count the times I’ve told people I eliminated television from my life years ago as a lifestyle choice, and had them respond with concern. I explain that I can’t make any sense out of paying for something I don’t really use. And that I like how not having it keeps me focused on things I find more enriching and enjoyable, like reading, creating, learning, writing, etc …
And still, people pretty reliably respond by trying to turn me on to a cable/satellite option that is ‘less expensive’ because they somehow hear me saying I can’t afford cable.
Hmmmmmmmm … that’s not what I said. Not at all.
I could give MANY more examples of this whole people don’t really hear what you say to them phenomena, but it doesn’t seem necessary at this point. You get the idea. And I suspect that if you start paying close attention to your interactions with others you’re going to see it quite clearly for yourself 😉
So I’ll just say this … I am not responsible for what others hear. I am only responsible for what I say.
And the same goes for you, by the way 😉
If you’ve had this same thing happen to you, I’d love to hear your story! So let’s meet in the comments and chat all about it 😉
As always, your presence is greatly appreciated. I adore that you are here. And I just know that we are going to have great fun together ❤