Tuesday, January 1, 2019

What We Think We Hear

It started out innocently enough. A well-intentioned comment was unfortunately misconstrued and WHAM! Hurt feelings. It happens to all of us.

Compared to my daily attire I was somewhat dressed up, wearing a newly-purchased burgundy red skirt with navy blue top and matching tights. I was pleased with this outfit and feeling a bit cocky, I guess. Then my husband made his remark: “Wow, you look like the Queen of England!” To which I quickly replied: “I do NOT!” Then I further explained that, although I had nothing against the Queen, I was not a stuffy, dumpy, little old lady, as I perceived her to be. Talk about insults. “No, that’s not what I meant.” he continued. “I mean, that skirt is a rich royal color, like what a queen might wear. It looks good on you—I meant it as a compliment.” Oh…

It’s not the first time my thoughts have jumped out of my mouth prematurely. I’m sure it won’t be the last. It seems to be a basic problem with human communication: what you think you say about what you think is not at all what the other person hears and thinks you said, because they are thinking their own thoughts. Thinking is a wonderful thing, most of the time, but it can and does mislead us. Accurately hearing what the other person is saying, if we are even listening, is critical. Because I am such a visual person, I know that I immediately picture in my mind what it is the other person is saying. I also know that I’m sometimes totally wrong. It helps to clarify by repeating what you think the person said before adding your own reply.

To complicate matters, everyone is different when it come to speaking one’s mind. Some of us are more articulate than others; some write their thoughts better than speaking them. Then there are those who think others can just read their minds…

With another new year beginning, many are making resolutions to improve themselves or their lives—or at least considering making those. More recently, it’s become popular to choose a word for the year, with the intention of focusing on that as a way of improving oneself. I don’t do well with resolutions, but I do like to set a goal or two for the year. Although I reach those with varying degrees of success, it gives me something to aim for. I also like choosing a word or statement and in past years have chosen listen, focus, and one step at a time as my word(s) for the year. This year, I’m taking my words from the 1989 book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Dr. Stephen Covey. In it, he stated:
"If I were to summarize in one sentence the single most important principle I have learned in the field of interpersonal relations, it would be this: Seek first to understand, then to be understood."

I think I have my work cut out for me, but that's good because I like challenges. Whatever method you choose, I hope that you also will seek some way to improve your life in the coming year. Secretly, I really would like to appear as dignified as the Queen of England. How about you?
Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them.    ~ Proverbs 29:20 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
 As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”      
~ Isaiah 55: 8 - 9

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