If you have ever known someone who it is just impossible to have a proper conversation with, then you will relate to the quote by Stephen R Covey: “Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply.” When I first read this I thought how well such a simple sentence sums up many a conversation. In fact when I went onto read it out to my family, my Mum’s immediate reaction was “How true!”
I mean, how many times have you come away from a conversation absolutely exhausted because everything you said you had to say again and again, and all because your companion was not listening. Yes they were looking at you, and yes they had something to say in return, but you could just see by the look in their eyes that what you were saying wasn’t registering. All they were thinking about was what they wanted to say next, each of their sentences dotted with words such as, “yes but the point I was making was,” or “as I was saying.” Your desire to have a two-way interaction is now shattered. Then, to add to the frustration, you can guarantee that sometime later they will accuse you of never telling them something! Just where is that brick wall when you need it to bang your head against it!
Though I guess, and if we are being really honest here, we most probably are all guilty at some point of not completely listening, our point of view seemly more important. Sometimes I have had a thought that I needed to express as soon as it pops into my head. If I don’t, the thought will just dissipate, leaving me wondering what it was I wanted to say. Which then means I was not paying too much attention to the ongoing conversation. So really, who am I to moan about another!
Maybe we should all take a lesson here and evaluate how we converse with others; always keeping in mind that we should “be quick to listen and slow to speak.” Indeed, what is it they say? We have two ears and one mouth. So we should listen more than we speak. And when we say listen, that’s properly listen and not just hear.
I looked up the dictionary definition of the word “understand” and it means “to perceive the intended meaning of.” So not the presumed meaning, or what we have somehow translated it to be in our head, but actually what someone is trying to say. To do this we have to properly pay attention. Bearing in mind also that sometimes people, and this is due to no fault of their own, are not very coherent when speaking or don’t have the ability to express themselves clearly. So let’s give this a go. For isn’t it so much nicer for someone when they feel genuinely listened to?
Here is an amusing note to leave on. A few years ago my Mum bought a greetings card just purely for the quote on the front, and now it is framed and hanging on the dining room wall as a constant reminder for my Dad! It is a shame I cannot give credit to the author as it is attributed to an “unknown”, but for me it sums up well how most of our conversations in reality go. It says, “I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realise that what you heard is not what I meant.” To quote my Mum, “How true!”