Published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, December 4, 2023
by Neil Senturia
A few thoughts on listening and one good idea (maybe).
I am a junior member in a group of old men (no women, feels a bit like the lunch bunch at the Bohemian Grove), but at any rate, twice a month they all seem to have the salad with the dressing on the side, and we discuss a wide range of topics from the fate of the world to the Padres.
What is fascinating is how hard it is to listen well. I am not disparaging the hearing aid brigade, rather what I am saying is that you really need to focus and engage in order to “understand,” not just hear, since often the intent and the words are nuanced, subtle and interwoven. Active listening is serious business.
To understand this better, I turned to Alison Wood Brooks and Hanne Collins at the Harvard Business School. Brooks says, “People often aren’t tuned in when we think they are,” and so when you leave the meeting thinking everyone is on the same page, you may find out that three chapters are missing and a few people are reading the pages from back to front.
I know what I think you thought you said, but did you really mean what I think I heard?
The statistics are clear. Between 25 percent and 35 percent of a speaker’s perception of being heard is incorrect. You think you were compelling in providing the blueprint for peace in the Mideast, while in fact, the audience was either doing Wordle or worrying about when to pick up dinner. Ships passing in the night — not even close to each other.
What you often get is the “nod” that suggests that they are right there for you, baby, but they are not. The key takeaway from the research is that the speaker needs to “check in” periodically. You need to ping the listener.
As the listener, one way to demonstrate that you are both hearing and understanding is to say it back to the speaker. “So, Betty, what I think you are saying is that you stabbed your husband with a meat clever — or did you say it was the kitchen knife?”
Or, if you were drifting off wondering if Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce can really make it work, Brooks offers the following potential antidote: you can say, “I’m sorry, can you repeat that? I wasn’t listening.”
“The single biggest mistake in communication is the illusion that it actually took place,” said George Bernard Shaw, the Irish playwright and political activist.
Now, as promised, maybe a good idea. Over 1,500 dating apps offer potential connections for a variety of desires. Of course, the key problem is how to pick, which way to swipe, is the person a serial killer or a chef with two Michelin stars. Everyone is looking for love, however, with limited time, what can you do to improve the selection process?
It might be nice if there were some sort of quick indicator of what the person is really like. Something less invasive than a Myers Briggs assessment, but better than being trapped at a dinner, only to find shortly after the waiter brings the water that you already hate him/her.
I am taking an art class. There are 14 women and me, (you had to be over 55 to get into the class). While I have no pretensions to being the next Basquiat, what I did learn is that “doing art” — painting or clay sculpture or papier-mache, etc. — reveals an enormous amount about a person’s personality.
I watched the other members of the class in their artistic efforts over the weeks, and then I also spoke to them about their lives, avocations and interests. I am going to suggest that how they approached their own art projects had distinct indications of their personalities. Their “artwork” revealed more than words could.
My classmates were unique in their approaches and their observations about the art we studied. Perhaps, in the neverending search for human connection, the next innovative dating app could provide for a feature in your profile that includes a small “art project.” Adding a paintbrush or some colored pencils might be a way to increase the odds of finding your own true and forever Rembrandt.
Rule No. 787:
Coffee at the Met around 11?