Monday, July 18, 2011

Listening and not hearing

No, that's wrong, I say. "He sang it like this..."

Isaiah is asking for my help working out the harmonies for a particular song, and I'm practicing a new communication strategy.

I tend to speak carefully, guardedly, thinking about other people's feelings, not wanting them to misinterpret what I say. Isaiah is very plain speaking. If he decides to tell you what he thinks, he just tells you. So, in our history together, I've gone through many bouts of 'you aren't considering my feelings' when he talks about something. His response has been to talk less. We have worked through much of that in the past 20 years.

Recently I had another breakthrough. I often feel like Isaiah isn't hearing me.  When this happens, I say things over and over, until, in frustration, I say it quite plainly, though perhaps with some angst mixed in.  It occurred to me recently that he actually may not be hearing me. Not that he's not listening. He's just not tuned in to the way I say things.  So instead of 'honey, are you sure he sang that there?', to which he responds, 'I'm very sure', I now say 'He didn't sing that there' and he responds by reviewing that part of the song.

So sometimes the blank look on his face like I'm speaking in a foreign language is really just that I'm not speaking his language. He's not thinking 'What the hell is wrong with this dumb broad?' He's thinking 'Huh?' or 'Did she say something?' in all innocence. Since I want to be heard, I'm learning his language.

I have great news for you. We all have the ability to learn as many languages as we want. It takes patience and curiosity and active-listening . Whose language do you need to learn?

1 comment:

  1. Faith, I love it!

    The other day, I'm talking with an engineer who's explaining to me why what I'm planning to implement will never work. He tells me the theory. He explains his logic. He quotes experts. He shows me articles.

    The only problem is that I've already implemented the software and it does work. At first I engage him by addressing his stated concerns. I show where the theory is flawed. I explain how the systems have evolved. I take him through my process flow and highlight how I've worked through the potential pitfalls.

    He'll have none of it. The experts say that it won't work; therefore it won't.

    Finally I say, "Well, one thing I know for sure!"

    He asks, "What?"

    "I'll never hire anyone who says that this won't work."

    "Why's that?"

    "Because it's obvious that any who says that has never actually done it. They've only read about it."

    He heard me.

    ReplyDelete

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