Updated: Nov 16
Noise. Noise. Noise. Everywhere.
How can we listen when we refuse to hear?
There is even noise in our silence. Our thoughts are haphazardly scattered across the stems of our brain. We may look like we are still, but inside an entire factory of cog-like neurons are spinning out of our control.
We have lost our listening skills. Our ability to listen has slipped away, not solely because of the constant daily presence of noise but more so because our aptitude for listening has become elusive. We can’t hold onto it long enough to use it. They are coated with the constant flow of all the other things floating by in our brain.
Communication has become tainted. We don’t listen to understand, we listen to reply. As humans, we are so egocentric, even when we are working hard to not be egocentric. We have become used to listening in ‘sound-bytes’. It’s all we feel we have time for.
This half-listening has caused conflicts across various relationships - marriages, between family and friends, co-workers, rulers of countries, and the list expand. Listening has the word ‘almost’ dangling from it. Not fully present. Not completely there. Not full understanding. Just almost.
Assume-icide sets in. I’ve witnessed this with my marriage coaching clients. “I listened. Sort-of. But I know what she meant. I heard what she said. And it was insulting.” In many cases, the cause of assumptions arise from half-listening.
Case in point.
A young couple is preparing for their upcoming wedding. In a true responsible moment, they sit down together and go through their budget. There are some items that need to be discussed for their dream wedding. The budget isn’t supporting it all. So the young man leads the conversation. “Honey, here is a list of some of the things I thought we could discuss eliminating. What are your thoughts?” She turns the piece of paper in front of her and scans through the ones he has highlighted. She sweetly looks at him and says, “Well, dear, this one is a must. I cannot ever imagine not having a Wedding Band.” Trying as he might, he looks at her and says, “Really, dear? A Wedding Band is that important to you.” She says, “Of course. It’s something I’ve always dreamed of.” With a hint of frustration, he points to a couple of other things and says, “Honey, I think these are much more important, don’t you agree.” Sensing his frustration, tears threaten to spill from her eyes. “I’m serious. That is not even an option. I want a Wedding Band.” He looks at her, with hands on his hips and says, “You are willing to let all these others things go so we can have a group of sweaty musicians up on a stage for one night of our lives. It doesn’t make sense to me.” Now the tears are running down her face! She looks at him and says, “No, not a Wedding Band.” And points to her finger, “A Wedding Band!”.
Aha. Assume-icide has reared it’s ugly head. Requesting clarification. Listening with intention. Asking questions. All of these would have made that a very short conversation, instead of one that had a lasting memory of frustration, fear, and tears.
Many relationships come to an end because of the destructive force of assumption, affecting friendships, marriages, siblings, and more.
The primary antidote to assume-icide is practicing "active listening." It involves setting aside one's ego and letting the other person express themselves fully, without prematurely formulating a response, to ensure a truly effective conversation. It takes effort. True effort. Forming a habit. Consistent effort shapes the foundation of habits.
How to do this in 3 easy steps.
1. Wait. Shut off the ‘hey I can’t wait until you are done talking, so I can add my point’ button. Wait until the other person has completely finished speaking and while they are speaking, just release the desire to add to it and, instead, listen to each and every word. This may be an exercise in patience for you, but it will be worth it. The conversation will flow and not seem one-sided or too long.
2. Ask. If you don’t understand, if something feels contrary to what you believe is truth, or if it feels like you are being attacked, ask a question. “I’m not sure I completely understand what you are saying. Can you expand upon your thought process?”
3. Repeat. “What I hear you saying is ________. Is that correct?” When clarity comes to the table, confusion gets up and leaves.
Imagine what the world would look like if we listened.