Do We Always Hear What The Other Person Is Saying?
“We interpret events based on our points of view, attitudes, opinions, beliefs, perceptions and assumptions, past experiences, memories and generalizations. All these shape our thinking maps and how we interpret events…positive thinking and negative thinking.”
Communicating is often one of the hardest things we deal with. It can be with those we work with, with family members, or just with people in general. I found Derik Mocke’s quote to be very telling. Everything we have in our heads. every experience we have filters what we read, what we hear and what we see and we respond accordingly. And the response can be a positive response or a negative one.
Son and I have learned to stop each other and say “Ok, let me tell you what I am hearing and you tell me if that is what you are saying”. It saves a lot of confusion for us. I am going to use a humorous point to illustrate this..but it is still the same for anything we do. What we hear is not only based on our experiences but on the definitions we have for the words used. Just think about how young people used to say “Oh, that is so bad” but what they meant was it was a really good thing.
Some examples of fights that did not happen because we asked the right question are me asking son why we defragged the volume on our computer. When he asked me why I asked that I told him and he laughed and said that the word volume meant quantity not volume of sound here.We all have different definitions for things and that can cause arguments because the other person does not know what definition we are using.
Another example was when a friend of mine was telling me about someone and I said “She is very dramatic”. Well, he stopped me and asked me what I meant by “dramatic”. And I explained that I was saying she was very exotic looking. He thought I was calling her a drama queen. See how easily misunderstandings occur. But the good thing was this friend and I have very good communication skills and we ask when unsure.
Another thing that causes miscommunication is that people often “listen to reply” instead of “listening to hear and understand” and so they miss all that is said and therefore do not fully understand what the other person said. I see this a lot and if you watch the person you are talking to, you can see it in their eyes that their mind is racing to figure out the answer and they have missed the important part of what was said. The same thing happens when people read posts and comments online. They will zip through all the writing just scanning it and then write some comment and have missed the main point of the whole thread.
Another good example, and this one almost ended in a bad argument. We were talking about the electric bill and how high it was. Son said “Well, I know it is not the electric company.” And I got upset and we said a few things back and forth, and then I threw my hand up and said..”Wait a minute son. Let me tell you what my brain heard and you tell me what you were saying. My brain heard you tell me I was wrong and I was being ridiculous.” Son got the most shocked look on his face and said….”No no no mom..that is NOT what I was saying. I was trying to say it was not the Electric company so it must be something wrong in this house.” We could have had a really ugly argument had I not thought to ask him to explain.
I think when we read things, we need to realize that what we get out of it is from our own experiences. This is why they do not like people who have been robbed, for example, to be on the jury for a robbery trial because it might influence their thinking. And sometimes, we need to read things three or four times to make sure we are getting what the person is really writing and not our own slanted view from our past for both positive and negative things influence how we read things.
image from beyondthinkinglikealawyer.com
When you are talking, before getting upset…take the time to stop and say to the other person…”You know, this is what I am hearing in my head…is this what you are saying to me?” I think you might be surprised and find that many an argument might not happen with just that one step. Son and I communicate so much better now that we have learned to do that. And if someone uses a word and it has a negative connotation to you…stop the person and ask them to tell you what the word means to them.
If you lived in a controlling situation in the past, you might find yourself sensitive to someone trying to explain how to do something and take it as they are controlling you. If you lived with abuse, you might be sensitive to statements that sound harsh and react to them. If you have had trauma such as being in a dangerous storm, etc, you might find yourself getting upset when someone tries to say something is not serious.
We all have a head full of experiences that affect how we view things and can make us touchy when someone is talking to us. If you feel your emotions rising when talking to someone, try stopping and asking them to explain. We all have our own way of talking and saying things. We all have our own mannerisms that others may not be used to as they may have mannerisms we are not used to. Some people use their hands a lot when talking and that can make others feel pressured or threatened. Communication is hard enough but if just asking someone what they mean helps stop a fight, it is worth it. And making sure to really listen..to listen to hear what they are saying…helps avoid confusion too.
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