Did I Hear What You Heard?

We  have a conflict brewing between a social agency and a community that will likely end up in the courts after four years of engagement. The Director of the agency said” It is amazing how many times we can say the same thing and we still aren’t understood.” This is a sad state and I am sure both sides have not understood the same things being said over and over.


It got me wondering how many times, each day, I say something that someone else hears differently. I wonder how many times I hear what I expect to hear rather than what is being said. I wonder how much of the conflict in our world is through misinterpretation.

I recognize that my ears aren’t biased but my brain sure can be. The sum total of my experiences determine how I understand words; especially ones that carry potential for strong emotions. In the conflict above- homeless, drug treatment, Nimbyism, are three that have become inflammatory and there is likely little that will change the impressions. In this case there were lots of earlier actions that one of the parties could have taken but they entered into the ‘discussion’ believing they had ‘right’ on their side and they didn’t need to be transparent.

In my life, not only do I carry the past into my understanding of the present but I bring my current state as well. If I am cranky I am less amenable and my ear to brain pathway gets narrow and prejudiced.  If I am hungry, happy, tired, or ill they path changes again.

I am not a brain expert but it seems to me that I need to ask, in situations where the debate is circular, ” Am I hearing what you are saying?” and then honestly realize that I’m not. It is my responsibility to understand so I need to ask questions to clarify rather than questions to win. If I suspect that my words aren’t landing then, again, it is my responsibility to restate the position so as to be understood without anger, arrogance or malice. If I am not ‘hearing’ of ‘being heard’ it is up to me to set it right.

Make Today Remarkable, by Rehearing,



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