Saturday, January 29, 2011

Listening vs. Interpreting -- Writer's Poke #286

This week, the President gave his State of the Union address. The reaction to it illustrates pretty clearly the difference between listening and interpreting.

If we like someone, or if we know that their point of view on a topic is aligned with ours, we're more likely to listen to what they have to say.

On the other hand, if we don't like someone, or if we know that their point of view on a topic is not aligned with ours, we're more likely to interpret what they have to say, which prevents us from being able to listen fully.

In my use of the term, "interpreting" refers to such things as 1) discounting the person's honesty or sincerity, 2) finding points of disagreement before fully hearing everything the person has to say, 3) reviewing our own beliefs and philosophies to find a base platform on which to reject any message that is counter to what we thought before the person began speaking.

Sometimes I wonder why people give speeches, or even try to communicate, at all.

Do you spend more time listening or interpreting?

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen." -- Ernest Hemingway

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