When I first read the sentence (“Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”), it seemed to be a rather familiar statement. I guess we hear it a lot in our everyday conversations. But how often do we encounter it?
Let me start off this way, imagine an enormous building filled with hyper active journalists, a building belonging to an over powerful news channel. The journalists are so ambitious, they would sabotage the work of an entire floor of the building or more if they come to believe their story is the thing the world needs. They will run over to any cubicle in their way, tramping, jumping and running in the field of every journalists mind hoping to persuade them. And for a very vast majority of the time, they are pretty successful in uniting many minds to work together in order to gather and conclude the extraordinary story that would just sell like a drake album on its first week. All the floors are related. All the journalists communicate with each other. The building knows no night or day. It doesn’t close on holidays nor do the journalists go home at night. it’s an interesting place isn’t it?
Well it would be even more interesting for you to know that the building is more or less your very own mind. Just read the previous paragraph again. I’ll wait…
Let’s go back to the building now. As it would be expected, there are many theories and stories produced in the building every day. Some backed up by strong evidence and some just formed out of a mist. At each point, you have many stories ready to be offered to the main office to be published. The publishing would be your actions and the words you speak. Ok now I think we’ve got enough preparation to move on to the main subject I want to speak about.
Picture yourself in the middle of a conversation with a friend or sibling. You’re talking about a matter that many of us usually think about as humans. Like the concept of god, or what happens after death or if souls do exist. Why these subjects? Well because as I said they always do come to mind now or later and almost everyone has an opinion in this matter and the most beautiful thing is that all that opinions differ. From small details to the whole foundation. As the two of you are firing answers and thoughts at each-other, you realize that at a point when you’re in the middle of a statement, the other person says for example: “I know but if you…” but then you cut them off because you want to finish your statement and the ones that were to follow as you haven’t made your complete point yet. In the meantime the other person repeatedly goes on saying:” if you… if you… if you….” and as soon as you’ve finished speaking, they would start their sentence that started with “if you”. You listen and acknowledge that the other person does indeed respond to parts of your argument but not all of it. As if they haven’t even heard you. Well what just happened here?
Congratulations! You have just encountered the person that didn’t listen to you to understand, but to respond. Why am I saying this? Hear me out. Remember the big busy building of our minds. Well it always has many articles ready to be published. Because there are always many being written, the main office just realizes the world doesn’t need all of them at the same time. A sentence or even a single word triggers the main office of the other person’s mind because they have come to the conclusion that this is where they van finally use the story they had been working on not so long ago. the reason your sibling/friend/anybody else keeps interrupting you with “if you” until they can finally burst out the words is that the office has come to the conclusion that the response is so good and ready to use that they don’t need to listen to you anymore. And yes of course they aren’t listening to you if they keep shouting the same words for 10 seconds as you try to finish your sentence and not drown in the tsunami of words coming from every side.
At this point you might be thinking: “well that explains one group of the people we speak to, but how about the people who we see are actually listening to us. Like the ones who think before they answer us or sometimes they don’t even answer and think about what we said instead. Does the news channel not exist in their minds?” to which I would respond… of course it does.
Just like in real life, not all news channels are the same. The channel that works in the mind of the second group of people is just as active. Some would say more active with good reasons. What makes them different with the other sort of channels is their history. It isn’t usually a very good history they have. It is one that has caused them to be much more careful with what they publish. Maybe it has been publishing many stories that looked very good at sight but when read more carefully, they were just too stupid. Or maybe a story so steamy it caused two very large groups of people going head to head following major casualties. Maybe even some stories far too controversial for the channel to tolerate the backlash.
Anyway, the point is that the past has made them much more picky with what they publish. This decision would surely reduce the sales of a channel… but it’s clear which one I would choose if I wanted to hear the story closest to truth! That is why when offered new information, the second group of channels don’t always whip out a story from a folder to publish. They wait, do some thinking and gather more information before they decide whether they are going to even publish a story regarding that matter or not.
The scenario of listening just to respond doesn’t always need to be between two people either. It can be yourself just trying to outdo and answer the you from a couple seconds ago. I think we all might have experienced this one. It’s when you reach a point in a conversation where you suddenly realize your argument is wrong or that the things you are saying don’t have a certain point to them therefore they wouldn’t actually complete your previous statements and arguments. They are just nice words. What happens then is that you just decide to go on speaking and choose a random subject that is merely connected to what you just said. It can even be a default argument that just came to your mind and you use it because you had won an argument with it in another matter.
Alternatively, you might just come up with an argument that is popular amongst the common public. You might not even agree with it on any level. A more careful look at the situation would show you that you’ve thrown yourself into a loop and the only way to stop it is to just stop speaking. How it all started is also your own news agency acting so wrongly ambitious, they didn’t even take into account their own publishing of the morning. They just decided to publish a story that would easily contradict the other one, showing how weak their editing team is. That is where your ego is so huge you wouldn’t even listen to yourself to understand…
I wish the word limit would allow me to explain more. Fortunately, you can do a lot by yourself. With a bit of imagination, this method can be easily used to translate many actions. If you don’t agree with me just, just keep it in mind for the next couple of days or weeks when you’re encountering your colleagues or friends or anyone. It can be edited and broadened to explain even a broader set of behaviours. But it is as clear as the sky gets on a lovely sunny morning in the south of France, that no single method of thought and decoding can be used to explain everything.
Honestly, I don’t really know. Maybe there is one that can explain everything. But you wouldn’t know would you? You can’t live forever!