Were you ever in a situation where you had to recall details of a conversation you had with someone and, when you did, the other person recalls something different?
This happens quite frequently. We think we remember every detail and try to convince the listener that what we are saying is the only way it happened, when, in fact, it is our perception that leads us to have so much conviction with what we remember.
It also has to do with the differences between hearing and listening. I remember going to a couples seminar with my hubby a few years ago and they had us do a fun listening exercise. They gave us a list of questions to ask one another, but here was the catch — the asker had to also repeat back what they heard for the answer by prefacing it with, “What I heard was...” So for instance, my husband asked me the question “What are you thankful for?” and I said, “I am thankful that I have a roof over my head and I can go food shopping.” Every year I am always so thankful that we can go to the grocery store and get things we need, especially in cases like stocking up before a snowstorm, even if we go crazy and get too many things we don’t need. Anyway that’s all beside the point. After I gave my answer, my husband sarcastically says, “OK, what I heard was that you like to spend money on food.”
We both had a chuckle, but it really goes to show you that even though this was said jokingly, we both knew that when it comes to our daily conversations we hear things differently, and have our own unique opinions on every situation.
Men and women have different ways of communicating. For instance, Dr. Deborah Tannen gives an example of a married couple driving in a car when the wife turned to her husband and asked, “Would you like to stop for a cup of coffee?” “No thanks,” he answered truthfully. So they didn’t stop. The result? The wife, who had indeed wanted to stop, became annoyed because she felt her preference had not been considered. The husband, seeing his wife was angry, became frustrated. Why didn’t she just say what she wanted?
Unfortunately, he failed to see that his wife was asking the question not to get an instant decision, but to begin a negotiation. And the woman didn’t realize that when her husband said no, he was just expressing his preference, not making a ruling.
When a man and woman interpret the same interchange in such conflicting ways, it’s no wonder they can find themselves leveling angry charges of selfishness and obstinacy at each other. So as you can see, miscommunication can cause undue issues within any form of a relationship. Listening and understanding are very important for both men and women.
Here are some tips for effective listening according to bnet.com:
1. Concentrate on what others are saying. Try not to think about all the errands you have to run and the emails that need to be returned.
2. Send a non-verbal message that you are listening. Nod your head or look into their eyes.
3. Avoid early evaluations. If you feel negatively in the beginning then you will feel that way throughout the message and it may distort the intended meaning.
4. Avoid getting defensive. You may not always agree with the other party’s point of view, but try to listen to what the other person is saying without becoming overly defensive. Effective listeners can listen calmly to another person even when that person is offering unjust criticism.
5. Practice paraphrasing. It’s the art of putting into your own words what you thought you heard and saying it back to the sender.
6. Listen and observe for feelings. Listen to the words being said and concentrate on the tone and inflection.
7. Ask questions. Effective listeners make certain they have correctly heard the message. Ask questions to clarify points or to obtain additional information. Open-ended questions are the best.
Make sure you soak in the listening tips above and also try to implement these new strategies in your next conversation. Hear what I’m saying?
Whitney is an on-air multimedia personality, and works behind the scenes helping businesses gain extra exposure, through her WIN Promotions video production services.