Every morning at 6:45 I hear a screeching noise. It only lasts a second or two. It always makes me smile.
The noise is the sound of bicycle brakes being applied as a rider takes the curve at the top of the hill on the path that curves under the bridge along the river.
It makes me smile because, while I can’t hear the noise of the traffic crossing the bridge, every week-day morning I hear the bicycle rider. His screeching brakes are at a different frequency.
People say something and I hear something else, or nothing at all. I’m not listening. Or perhaps I’m thinking of something else (like how to argue my point if I don’t want to hear their’s) or it could just be we are speaking different languages, even if we both speak English.
Speakers provide the context through their words. The listener makes the meaning through their context.
Recently, my beloved and I were having a conversation about an issue that is a bit ‘hot’ for both of us. His response didn’t make sense to me. Okay. honestly — I thought his response was stupid. Fortunately, rather than tell him that, or say something else that would have inflamed the situation, I asked for clarification. (I didn’t want to respond too sharply and needed to breathe and listen deeper. A good way to give myself that opportunity is to ask the other person to ‘tell me more or ‘help me understand’ what they mean.)
When he replied, I laughed. Even though I thought we were talking about the same thing, we were actually talking about two different situations. It’s just we’d both assumed the other knew what it was we were discussing. He thought we were talking about something we were going to do and I was talking about something we hadn’t done but had agreed we would do.
It’s easy to get mixed messages, to hear things that are not said or to not hear what is being said or to think the other person knows what you’re talking about even when you haven’t talked about what it is you’re talking about.
As the listener, we make meaning of what the other person said. Sometimes, our meaning-making is different than what they meant. (Okay, almost always because the listener is the one who makes meaning of what they heard and their meaning will always come through what they believe, know, think, feel, see, and perceive.)
I heard the screeching of bicycle brakes this morning and was reminded that what I hear is not always what is being said. Sometimes, the speaker and the listener are not on the same frequency. Sometimes, I’m just not listening to what they’re saying. I’m only hearing what I think and feel about what I hear.
It’s important to tune in to the other to hear what they are saying and to tune out what I think about what they’re saying. To do that I must breathe and seek first to understand.