If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? The same question might be asked of couples while they are arguing, or parents while they are yelling at their children. “They don’t listen to me. I feel like I am talking to the wall.” “He never hears me when I am talking.” “She is so distracted.” “They don’t care.”
The first question I ultimately will ask a couple in my office or at the mediation table is, “What did you hear your partner say?”
Rarely do they get it right. People will usually take on a defensive posture. Generally, we hear what we believe or even want to hear. Yes, it’s true. We have already written the story of how this is going to go, so we tune out what is being said in exchange for what WE BEIEVE is being said.
Hearing is noticing words, tone, and syntax and possibly added to facial expressions or what we think we know about the person. Listening is different. It requires strength, security and acceptance that what you and others have to say is worth listening to. It’s noticing the feelings behind that words, the tears, and the anger. It’s hearing the deepest of emotions such as frustration, fear and shame and not judging them.
We are all raised with certain perceptions of the world. We take information into our brains and look at or perceive it in different ways, usually in ways that are not accurate to the speaker. We match up what is being perceived with our own interpretations based upon our past experiences. Most of the time, we are either speaking or listening with the positive or negative childhood impressions we received from our parents, guardians or family members. Because of this, we jump to the conclusions long before the speaker gets it out. It is often a knee jerk reaction to a perceived threat. Why? Because we are afraid of blame so we push it back in the talkers face with just as much blame as we believe we heard.
Real Listening is about honesty. It is about allowing someone to be themselves without us making them responsible for our fears.
It’s about truth, their truth.
~Wendy Pegan, Relationship Builder