I was introduced to the term “one’s listening” by Dr. Fernando Flores in the 80s. This “listening” is what’s going on in a person’s head when they listen or read. You’re experiencing this now, likely asking yourself “what the hell is he talking about?” That’s what I’m referring to as “your listening.”

Words, in themselves, don’t have meaning for more than one person at a time. While the speaker has something in mind when they speak them, this may or may not be the same as when a person hears them. Instead, the words heard evoke a conversation in the person’s head that may or may not be what was intended by the speaker. Rather they mean what the receiver gets evoked in their head.

This is why communication is so fraught with misunderstanding. If people have different understandings when one person says something another person may very well hear something else (not in their ears but in their head).

As George Bernard Shaw observed: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

This is why it is important to attend to someone’s listening. When we’ve described certain concepts repeatedly, we can even anticipate what this listening will be based on past conversations. And, of course, we can ask. When writing or creating training materials, however, it is important to make a decision about what the likely listening for your audience will be.

Explanations that take this listening into account will be better than just an explanation of what you are trying to describe.

 

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