Do you hear what I hear?

Over the last few weeks, I’ve blogged about the stories I’ve heard surrounding Australia’s history, and how hearing other stories than the ones I grew up listening to has changed my perspective.

In this blog, I want to step in more closely and explore some of the intricacies of hearing and listening at a personal level.

I’m a wordsmith, a person of words – I love to read, write and talk.

If you want to inspire me – talk to me. If you want to build me up and encourage me – tell me I’m doing a great job. I tell the people I care about that I love them and I love to hear someone tell me that they love me too.

However, not everyone is as adapt or comfortable with words as I am. Not everyone communicates their love and affection through words.

My mum shows her love by the things she does – usually something she makes. Mum is of a generation when verbally expressing feelings was not expected, and my siblings and I waited until adulthood to hear Mum actually say ‘I love you’.

But I knew Mum loved me when she came and did the ironing for me after the birth of my third child (ironing is Mum’s least-favourite task) and, years later, when she embroidered a picture of dragonflies (my favourite) for me.

More recently, someone close to me said that sharing the music on their playlist was their way of expressing their feelings. I’m glad they told me that because I didn’t instinctively know this as I communicate differently.

One of the challenges of intimate relationships, parents and children, friendships or work-place relationships is the often unacknowledged expectations around communication.

I am learning that, although I am a person for whom words of affirmation are important, I need to listen to what others are ‘saying’ to me in ways other than words. I am learning to hear what others are ‘saying’ when they don’t or can’t use words.

I am learning to ‘listen’ carefully for the things those I care about ‘say’ to me through their actions and the things they share in ways other than words.

If I assume that the only way to declare love or concern is through words, then it’s easy to assume that another does not feel those things just because they are not expressed in the ways I want to ‘hear’.

I am learning to ‘listen’ with my eyes, to notice what others do. I am learning to ‘listen’ for the things others don’t say. I am learning to ‘read between the lines’ of what others say and do.

When I do that, I ‘hear’ much more than is immediately obvious and I don’t miss the things that are actually being said in less obvious ways. Most importantly, I don’t discount what others feel or intend because they express it differently to the way I do.

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