Do You Hear What I Hear?

Have you ever attempted to read jumbled letter paragraphs and wondered why they seemed simple to some and challenging to others? Or listened to an eye-witness accounting of conversations that left you wondering where the truth may lie because they were so different? Even more perplexing is being present yourself and feeling certain that you heard everything correctly only to hear many differing accounts of the same event. How is this possible? Do others see what you see or hear what you hear? If not, how is effective communication even possible?

The human brain is remarkable for a multitude of reasons but auto correct may be the best teacher in understanding what is happening when another persons recounting goes awry. The human brain anticipates, just like auto correct, what is coming next. As it is engaged it anticipates what seems to fit the sentence or scenario and fills in the blanks. For the same reason that auto correct is great for some it is a nightmare for others. The brain anticipates based on the filters, biases and experiences it has recorded in its own private reference library. We stop really listening when we think we can 'fill in the blanks.' Life experience now enters the equation.

A newborn baby may be born into a large family of door slammers who are accustomed to loud noises and verbal shouting. The first time it hears these sounds the baby cries loudly in fear. Each time someone comforts them they grow more and more accepting that the loud environment is normal. A baby born into a household where music plays quietly and visitors murmur to allow the sleeping baby to rest develops completely different filters. While one may hear normal in loud noises the other will be terrified. It only takes a few weeks to develop their normal. Children who live in abusive households lose the ability to draw the line and establish barriers for themselves in relationships because they were not permitted to do so as a child. Theirs is a different normal. People relate, judge and interact through what they identify as normal.

What you have personally experienced in life largely determines what you hear and see; the blanks are filled in by your anticipation of what is coming. One person's anticipation can be diametrically opposed to the next persons based on what they have lived, learned to accept and what they believe is the anticipated outcome of a sentence, a paragraph, a thought or a relationship. Many times people do not hear or see what you do. Their blanks were filled in from a different set of circumstances.

When communications become completely skewered, try tuning in to the person by listening. If you find yourself in a situation where you simply cannot understand why another person believes in something you think is unimaginable or expects an outcome that seems impossible to you take a moment to tune in to them. Listen as they describe their life experiences. Words and phrases can tell you how they are accustomed to communicating in life, or what they have learned to accept as normal.

Is there an air of expectation or resignation? Are they expecting to encounter the worst case or anticipating a miracle? Our expectations in life are developed when we are very young and totally under the control of authority figures around us. It takes a determined effort to alter the course and see or hear things differently. But we can; and when we do we can come together and find common ground. We can understand.


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