But I TOLD you all about it, I explained it in detail! How can you not remember?
Have you ever said this? You recall spelling out all the details, but somehow the message never made it through. We all have stories of misunderstandings. Sometimes they're hilarious, and sometimes they're painful.
I have had to learn repeatedly that I should never tell my spouse things in the morning. I am evidently a slower learner! Before the morning cup of coffee the ability to recall a conversation is thin, even when when asked to repeat it back. I eventually learned to leave important conversations for later in the day or to leave a note for communication that needs to happen in the morning.
Isn’t communication a simple process? The speaker speaks and the listener listens, and everyone understands each other, right? Evidently not! So why is communication so complicated? So how is it that we can hear things so differently?
Some of it has to do with the speaker.
- Is the speaker sending clear content? Sometimes we expect our partner to know as much about the context as we do, assuming they see the same things in the same way we do.
- Is the speaker communicating in a clear way? Sometimes we expect our partner to read our non-verbals or just know what we are thinking. We might say one thing, but really mean something unsaid. Are we trying to imply what we really think is important without saying it?
- We may be naturally quiet or shy about communicating our thoughts and feelings.
Some of it has to do with the listener. Many things within us distract us from truly hearing one another. We all have filters that we listen through before the message can even reach us for processing.
- Memories- When we listen through memories, we are not hearing the speaker’s words about now. Memories bring us back to another time. Maybe a previous argument or experience that is strong enough to distract us from the conversation.
- Strong feelings -When emotions are charged, like in the heat of an argument, our ability to hear each other drops dramatically.
- Values & beliefs-Our values are great things, but when we sensed that those beliefs are being challenged, we immediately become defensive and we establish a defensive posture that makes listening impossible.
- Past experiences- Sometimes we revisit the same discussion so many times that we are can’t hear beyond a previous experience.
- Interests- our interest can captivate us or lead us to distraction from what is being communicated to us at the moment.
- Expectations/Assumptions- If the listener has assumptions about a certain subject, they may be stuck there and never really here the message being spoken.
- Attitudes - At times we are so stuck on a certain subject that the minute we approach it, we are lost in a negative attitude and we are no longer hearing anything.
- Gender- we have different understandings of meanings specific to our gender. Men may understand something different from how women would understand the same comment.
Some of it has to do with our physical environment.
- There may be external blocks to communication. For some the hearing aide battery strength limits the communication.
- Peripheral noise- Our surroundings can be filled with external noise that makes listening very challenging. If our kids are clamoring for our attention or we are trying to be heard over the TV, how effectively will we hear what is being said?
When we consider all of our internal and external distractions it is a wonder that we can communicate at all! Awareness of these obstacles will help us to work through the challenges. Then we will practice the directive of scripture found in James 1:19-20 that "... every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God."