Everybody’s Talking, Is Anyone Listening?
Quotations about Listening:
- “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” Ernest Hemingway
- “Emma felt she could not now show greater kindness than in listening.” Jane Austen
- “People love to talk but hate to listen. Listening requires more effort than just not talking. You can listen like a blank wall or like a splendid auditorium where every sound comes back fuller and richer.” Alice Duer Miller
Did you ever feel talking to someone, especially a friend, a loved one, or your spouse, they’re hearing you but not listening? We will look at the difference between hearing and listening. Hearing and listening are the same. And the difference leads to family arguments, conflicts between spouses, and conflicts among friends.
What’s the Difference Between Hearing and Listening?
Defining hearing vs. listening
Listening is understanding the person speaking.
Listening and Being Empathetic
George comes from a hard day at work. He is frustrated and angry at his boss, who expects him to work over the weekend due to a need to meet some company deadlines. It happened in the past, and he always resents it. There is paid a bonus for his weekend services but resents the last-minute nature of the work demand.
He, his wife, and kids usually have weekend plans to go fishing or to the baseball game, or basketball game, or to visit relatives who live in the mountains, where it is beautiful and peaceful and where his wife and kids love to go.
The problem is that when he expresses his outrage, he gets responses that make him feel angrier, wrong for having his reaction to the boss, and more frustrated because no one seems to listen.
His wife tells him things such as
Consider the extra money you’ll make.
Then she is confused when he responds angrily or annoyed.
Normally, George does not have this reaction to his wife. It’s familiar to many people. George and his wife have an otherwise loving relationship. But, in this situation, she comes away feeling angry.
What George needs and wants is empathy. He wants to feel that she is listening.
Here are a few examples of not listening:
- Responding vaguely or illogically to what was said
- Looking at a phone, watch, around the room, or away from the speaker
- Fidgeting, tapping on the table, frequently shifting position, and clicking a pen are some ways people show they are not listening.
I suggest that everyone who wants to understand this problem read a wonderful book called:
“The Squeaky Wheel: Complaining the Right Way to Get Results, Improve Your Relationships, and Enhance Self-Esteem,” written by Guy Winch, Ph.D., Copyright 2011
Dr. Winch, Ph.D., suggests you follow all five of the following steps if you want to help your spouse, friend, or loved one when they are complaining bitterly about a problem:
1. Let the person complete their narrative, so you have all the facts.
2. Convey you get what happened to them from their perspective
3. Convey you understand how they felt due to what happened from their perspective.
4. Convey that their feelings are completely reasonable.
5. Convey empathy for their emotional reactions.
Although it may seem illogical to empathize with a loved one who is angry about a situation and with whom you disagree, it’s important to realize they want and need empathy.
Being empathic, the other person feels a sense of relief. They want to know that you grasp what is happening to them. Agreeing or disagreeing is not the point. Giving advice is not the point. Doing either only aggravates things.
Always remember: Empathy begins with listening.
Guy Winch’s wonderful book provides step-by-step instructions on how to voice complaints to loved ones productively and how to respond to them.
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