There have been numerous occasions when I’ve acted on what I thought someone said, only to find out that I had completely the wrong end of the stick. And vice-versa.
In the pharmacy the other day, this occurred in my interaction with one of the staff. Luckily it wasn’t a serious conversation and there weren’t any dire consequences. But it caused me to think.
Yes. I may be facing you, and seeing your mouth open and close, but what I’m hearing is not what you’re saying. As the quote says, “You look but you don’t see. You hear but you don’t listen.”
This happens to all of us at some point. But I want to know why, and how does the other person feel about it?
The reason is because I’m not really focused on you. Other things may be darting through my mind – the next thing on my to-do list; what I’m having for tea tonight; a conversation I’ve just had, or whatever. In other words, my issues and life are more important than yours. If I am in that state of mind, good communication is never going to happen.
So how does the person “on the receiving end” feel about this? Well, I know how I feel when someone is doing it to me – pretty lousy. You can tell when someone is disengaged. It’s easy to sense you’re not important, and the other person just wants to get on with their stuff.
What’s the solution? FOCUS. When I’m talking to someone, the only thing that matters is that person. I have to block everything else out of my mind and concentrate exclusively on them. Somewhat like a horse with blinkers on.
Being a better listener will require more effort from me. But it will mean that the people I communicate with will benefit, as everyone has something worthwhile to say. My challenge is to remember this.