Bits and bobs

Random thoughts about random things by a random person


Wise words about listening

Do you watch the TV show Black-ish? I do…I really like it. It combines two of my favourite things: learning and laughing.

Last week’s episode (which I watched on Thursday night – gotta love a PVR!) was pretty sad, though. It was all about how the two lead characters, a husband and wife duo, have grown apart. In case you haven’t seen it and would like to, I won’t say anything else about the plot. The only other thing I will say is that they did an amazing job at portraying the emotions of the situation.

Fast forward to Friday night. I was looking for some painting projects on YouTube when I saw there was a clip with Henry Winkler on The Late, Late Show with James Corden. I love Henry Winkler. Truth be told, I love everything Happy Days. So I watched the clip. It was James Corden with David Duchovny and Henry Winkler on the couch. It turns out, Henry and his wife just celebrated 40 years of marriage.

I’m sure you won’t be surprised when I tell you that the conversation inevitably led to Henry being asked what he thought was the secret to a long and happy marriage. A few jokey answers were given, but then he said something that made me pause. Literally, I paused the video so I could write it down:

Respect what the other person heard as opposed to what you thought you said.

Go ahead…read it again. Realllllllllllllllllly read it and let it sink in.

It’s not rocket science. Communications specialists have been telling us something similar for years: Listening isn’t about us; it’s about the other person.

I really like what this quote says about it. So often, we get frustrated and upset because the person we are talking to just doesn’t “get it”. At the same time, because we are so focused on them not getting what we are trying to convey, and planning what else we are going to say, that we are equally not getting it. We are misunderstanding them. And when we stay focused on our own perspectives, things go awry.

We all live our own experiences (obviously) so when we say things, we say them through our own filter. And when we hear things, we hear them through our filter. The exact same words heard by 10 different people can be heard very differently by each of them because of that. So when we say something, whoever hears it may hear it completely differently than we, through our filters, intended to say it. I think this is particularly true in conversations that are very serious or important.

I know it’s just a TV show, but I couldn’t help but relate the quote to what I had seen the night before on Black-ish. Probably because it was so relatable. How many relationships head towards, or go into, the toilet because we don’t validate what the other person says, needs, or feels? And how many can be saved if we do the opposite?

Obviously, relationships are much more complicated than that – both personally and professionally.

I don’t pretend to any sort of expertise in that regard, but I do know, from experience, that when I’ve paid more attention to the other person in a conversation than to my own agenda, things have gone better. I also know that when speaking with someone who makes me feel that they are genuinely interested in my perspective, I’m automatically more interested in finding a positive resolution.

If you’d like some more information on communication, I recommend you check out the book Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss what Matters Most. It’s a super easy read and (yippee!) it’s fairly short. I love it and have gone back to it several times over the years. I’ve given it as a gift and recommended it to lots of people.

Anyhoooo…just some thoughts that I wanted to share. Hopefully you’ll find them interesting and maybe even helpful!!

Please feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments below.  And don’t forget to click on Follow if you’d like to be notified whenever I post. 🙂