If someone were to say to you, “The collection basket is at the front of the church,” where would you go? Some people would go to the sanctuary area and some people would go to the front doors. We can use the same language but mean different things.
There is also different “languages” used in English. I don’t know of language is the word that I would use but it is a fascinating topic which was given at the parish this past lent in a series put on by our Social Justice Committee. Different ways of seeing and speaking about the world following social economic lines. For example when speaking about food the very poor will talk about how they will find their next meal, those in the middle sphere will talk about whether they have the “right” foods, and the very rich will comment on the presentation.
I found this fascinating but the more I thought about it the less strange it seemed. Think about a hospital visit and how it might be spoken about by a normally healthy person, a person of moderate health, and the person who spends much of their lives in and out of health care facilities. How one talks about navigating red tape, prospects of going on with life, how to deal with bills change dramatically with each group. It all is affected by your world view.
It is not always WHAT people are talking about but HOW they talk about it that tells so much of a story. It is another important key to effective listening. The topic may remain the same between a number of people but that on which they focus and how they tell it may tell you more than the presented facts.
There is a huge difference between hearing and listening. One absorbs a shallow presentation. Guys – and I count myself deeply in this category – are particularly noted for this. That is why it is not a wise idea to tell me something hoping that I’ll pick up on the undercurrents of the conversation and understand something else entirely. If you are sad about something say it. “You know, they used to . . .” with the hope that I will understand that you want it to happen again just doesn’t work on me and most guys I know. I (we) – actually all of us – need to work on listening better. It is complicated because people often don’t even know what they want to get across. You think it would be O so simple. But it is not and requires more effort than most realize on both parts for true communication to take place.