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That May Be What You Heard, But That Is Not What I Said!

May 24, 2013

Have you ever been in a conversation with your partner, but you feel like you are talking to a deaf person? You can tell from the look on their face and their responses that they are not on the same page with you. You cannot help but wonder what they heard. You will know that soon enough when the subject comes up again and they quote you. Only what they quote will bear no resemblance to what you actually said.  It will remind you of the childhood game of Telephone. You know, where kids sit in a circle and the first person whispers something to the person next to them. It continues around the circle, with the last person repeating the comment. The result is hysterical. How could they have gotten it so wrong?  The same way your partner does. Something we affectionately refer to as selective hearing.

Men are particularly guilty of hearing only what they want to hear. Take the case of Lee and Marian. They were in the singles group at church. Marian told Lee, “Call me when they have the next event.” All Lee heard was “Call me.” Marion had just walked in the door when her phone rang. It was Lee. Men will also develop selective hearing when it is something they do not want to hear.

Women also practice selective listening; they put a different spin on it. Women will ask a question with the intent of accomplishing a desired goal. She will only get enough information from the conversation to manipulate the outcome. Women do not want to understand what you said. They mainly want you to take it back, agree with them, or give them what they want. Consider Ellen who wanted Larry to bring her some ice cream. Larry declined. Ellen refused to understand or accept the reasons Larry gave. She kept asking, trying to manipulate Larry into doing what she wanted.

Selective hearing has to be at the top of the list of pet peeves of relationships. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to talk to your partner, only to have them keep saying “What?”  You want to yell the Verizon slogan, “Can you hear me now?” You glare at them, and do the two-finger point thing between your eyes and theirs to make them focus. Men have a hard time multi-tasking so hearing, concentrating, and comprehending may be more than they can handle. However, the skills you used with your toddler, and a lot of patience may go a long way in saving your sanity, and your relationship.

Studies show that the selective hearing phenomenon is due to wandering attention, rather than disdain or malice for a particular subject or person. Before you beat your partner up too bad, make sure they focus on what you say. You do not want to end up with hockey tickets instead of tickets to the ballet. Avoid long conversations, when you see their eyes glaze over; you know you have lost them!



From → Humor, Relationships

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