When conversing with others what do you really hear? Week of 6/24/19

Bryan Golden

When it comes to communication, it is often said that it’s not important what someone says. What’s important is what the other person hears. What you hear is shaped by, and influences, your perception.
You’ve experienced this phenomenon whenever you have misunderstood someone. A perfect example of this is when you are offended by what another person has said, only to find out that’s not what they meant. Any decisions made, or actions taken based on your faulty understanding can have negative consequences.
Your mind filters and distorts what you hear. Your hearing is not as objective as you might think. Your hearing is biased in favor of what you want to hear. Conversely, you filter out that which you don’t want to hear. This is known as selective perception.
This process puts you at a disadvantage because you will be missing information vital to your success. Animals depend on an acute sense of hearing to keep them safe by detecting danger. It is fatal for an animal to misinterpret what it is hearing. Fortunately for animals, they have no preconceived notion of what they should be hearing. Therefore, their hearing is very accurate.
Similarly, you require accurate hearing as well. Although it’s not typically the same life or death stakes as in the animal kingdom, precise hearing is essential for your wellbeing. Enhancing the accuracy of your hearing requires that you first understand your current causes of distortion.
There are a number of factors influencing what you hear. What you want to hear, what you don’t want to hear, past experiences, judging the speaker, expectations, and emotions, all influence what you hear. Additionally, internal distractions limit your listening ability. Also, you won’t be hearing anything when you are intent on speaking instead of listening.
Selective perception is a huge impediment. When you only hear what you want to hear, and exclude anything you don’t want to hear, you are missing lots of information which could be very valuable. Any decisions you make based on incomplete information are likely to be flawed.
Your past experiences contribute to selective perception. You welcome anything said which reinforces positive past results. You tune out input which criticizes your failed behavior. Praise is always welcomed, while criticism tends to be summarily rejected.
Your judgment of a speaker determines what you hear. You won’t listen much to people you think are stupid, ignorant, biased, self-centered, or rude. There’s a greater likelihood of paying more attention to people you admire or who you think know what they are talking about.
Your expectations impact your hearing. You hear more of what you expect someone to say compared to what you don’t believe will be said. Anything said which you agree with is accepted, while contrary material is rejected.
Emotions affect your hearing. Being in a state of emotional distress may completely shut down your hearing. In this mode you are so absorbed by your feelings that you shut out any external input. Ironically, extreme euphoria has the same impact because you are distracted by your happiness.
Actually, any internal distractions limit your hearing. Preoccupation with any thoughts closes your mind to world around you. That’s why you can’t listen effectively while you are multitasking.
Accurately hearing what is being said gives you an advantage in making sound decisions and formulating opinions. Listening is essential for learning. Be aware of anything you are doing which is negatively impacts what you hear. Eliminate behavior which impedes your listening ability. This assures that you hear without discrimination.

NOW AVAILABLE: "Dare to Live Without Limits," the book. Visit www.BryanGolden.com or your bookstore. Bryan is a management consultant, motivational speaker, author, and adjunct professor. E-mail Bryan at bryan@columnist.com or write him c/o this paper.  2019 Bryan Golden


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