Barriers to Listening

One of the major problems in interpersonal relations is that we hear only what we want to hear.

This is particularly characteristic of women, and you’ve probably come across this problem more than once in your life.

A woman’s perception of the world, on the whole, is less logical than men’s. Women are inclined to create all sorts of “locks”, or mental patterns, and hear only what corresponds to them because it is convenient. That is why you have to explain to women particularly clearly what you intend to say.

For example, in reply to a woman’s declaration of love or a proposal of marriage, a man must be perfectly straightforward and clearly detail his relationship to her and his future plans. Moreover, it is very advisable to ask her to repeat what you have said and convince yourself that she has heard and understood everything.

I have often advised quite intelligent and reasonable women, who had made serious plans for a life with a man who did not have the faintest idea about them and who had absolutely different plans of his own.

A couple of weeks ago, in Ukraine, I had a conversation with a man who was very worried about his relations with a woman. He was sure that she wanted to be with him for the rest of his life and was ready to take responsibility for the children from her first marriage. When this woman came the next day, she asked me questions which had absolutely nothing to do with that man. She only mentioned in passing that this was a chapter in her life which she regarded as closed.

This problem does not only concern relationships betweenthe sexes. The more attached we are to some paradigm (idea, attitude to life, etc.), the less we are inclined to listen to arguments refuting or at least slightly contradicting it, and, accordingly, we are more receptive to any word that at least somehow confirms it.

We often hear what we want to hear. This may turn out to be positive or negative.

If someone likes sweets, starchy foods, cigarettes or meat, he may pay no heed to the thousands of articles and programmes about how harmful these products are, but he will definitely find and remember any statement in favour of the consumption of these products.

Biased listening takes place when we treat the person who we are talking to with prejudice: “Go on talking, I know this already. I know this Mr. Petrovich, now what can he tell me?” A biased attitude towards the person who is speaking or, in general, to anything whatsoever, is one of the problems impeding our spiritual and material progress.

Oriental psychology maintains that every day, every minute we apparently must begin our life all over again. Our perception must be renewed, being as keen as possible. We should meet and say goodbye to someone as if we see him for the first and last time.

Every day, every hour, every minute, there are some changes in the world: in nature, in our relations, in people. And we should notice them: notice how the trees blossom in the street that we pass every day. Usually, we do not notice these things. To see them, we must live “here and now”.

That is how children live – the world is always new for them, everyday and every hour they make little discoveries: “Hey, Mummy, look! What a nice flower!” Mummy: “Hurry up, or we’ll be late for nursery school!” Such an attitude of adults impedes the freshness of perception.

Very often it happens that people who are treated with prejudice convey important signs to the person they are talking to, providing information that can save the business or even the life of this person. However, they are simply not heard, their words are deliberately ignored. “Now what can my simple and homely neighbour Vasya possibly tell me that is so wise?” God is talking to us every moment, but we do not hear His helpful hints, we shut ourselves off, we hide from Him behind our stereotypes, live machine-like, loosing the capability of seeing life in all its beauty.

«The Alchemy of Interpersonal Relations: the Art of Listening and Being Heard», Rami Bleckt