Why Don’t We Listen Better? is a book that I initially did not think I would enjoy reading or learn from. Contrarily, I have learned more about myself than I could have ever imagined. To begin, to summarize the book was a bit difficult because there were so many interesting and important aspects. It was not an easy task to decide what to add and what to omit. James Petersen sought out to explore and dissect communication and understanding within different types and levels of relationships. Petersen described the Flat Brain Theory of Emotions as a theory that describes how different parts of your body are affected and react according to conversations that are being held and situations that are occurring. The book also defined the differences between the talker and listener in conversations and relationships.
In addition to writing about emotions and thinking, Petersen also wrote about the fact that there are really two types of communications. There is the latent communication which is what is being said. The latent communication or the verbal communication is what you can trust because it is actually verbalized by speaking or reading. In that regard, it is very hard to misconstrue what has been said to you or what you have read. The other type of communication is referred to as meta-communication. This type of communication comes in the form of body language, facial expression and reading between the lines. The problem with this type of communication is that it can be misconstrued and misinterpreted. Different individuals could interpret different things in the same conversation.
There were several points in the book that pertained to me and my actions. One really good point was the fact that we do not listen well. If we are not listening well to what is being said in the conversation that could drastically impede our ability to respond and participate in the conversation at hand. Missing what is being said could also be detrimental to working relationships and also personal relationships. Another major problem that I have is the internal noise. It is so easy to have a full conversation in my head. While that is going on, it is very difficult to completely listen and listen attentively to what is being said by the other person. How can I fully engage in a conversation if I allow the internal noise to take over?
This example was not in the book, however, in the beginning of a class that I was required to take for my job, we were tasked with getting to know other individuals at our tables. We were given five minutes to give a little information about ourselves and our lives and to also gather information about the person sitting next to us. If, while another classmate is introducing themselves, I am thinking about the distance from the class to my hotel or where will I have dinner, I cannot possibly be listening attentively to the other person. In the five minutes of internal noise, I missed the information that I needed later in the class for an assignment.
As for my “ah ha” moment, there were a couple, however if I had to pick just one it would be that I have realized that I am not a good listener. I have a tremendous problem with having my own thoughts and internal noise while I am in conversation with someone. Not only is this distracting, but, I have to be honest in stating that what bothers me about this book was the fact that I was forced to realize my faults. This book was so true, in describing my blend behavior and my personality that I felt as if James Petersen knew of my life. What I realized from this book was that emotions and communication go hand in hand. Another issue that I will mention would be controlling my emotions in a conversation. If I feel a certain way about a conversation, it is very obvious. I have a hard time with hiding my emotions. Many say that I wear my emotions on my sleeve. However on the other hand emotions can also be an asset to communication as it helps to show others your passion and true interest in a subject matter that you are well versed on.
Another aspect of communication that many do not recognize as a barrier to communication is judgment. If you think about it, a person is standing there, engaging you in a conversation and all you can think about are the ways that the person lives their life. That could also be considered as internal noise. Your thoughts and judgmental feelings can hinder you from listening. I do believe that a person’s lifestyle dictates the way he or she behaves and makes decisions. However, that is not an excuse to have a biased opinion and let your thoughts of this person cloud the message or information that he or she is trying to relay. I will be honest, I have been in that position. I was in a church service and I could not focus and did not hear the word because of what the Pastor had said previously.
I repeatedly asked God to forgive me. The problem was that in one the services, the pastor began to tell the congregation the how many square feet his house consisted of, the model of his big expensive car and that all of his and his wife’s clothes, who is also the co-pastor, are tailor made. He proceeded to tell us this right after he said “it’s giving time, time for tithes and offerings”. He finished that statement up with “and some of ya’ll are stealing from God, you will never have anything”. My thought was, there are people in this very congregation who are struggling financially. I felt that it was inappropriate and boastful. Hearing his voice made me replay what he had said previously and I struggled in the next couple services. I have not return to that church. In my opinion, that is a perfect example of internal noise.
Actions are so very imperative and absolutely necessary for change to occur. Actions have to take place in order for you to become better and more efficient in any and every aspect of your lives. I believe that the most important lessons I have learned from James Petersen were what I have been doing wrong in communication. I have also learned of ways, methods and techniques in which to make the changes. One of my biggest problems would be the internal noise. According to Petersen, internal noise are the conversations that are going on inside your head that no one is aware of but you. How can I expect to be a good listener and an even better participant in the conversation if I am not giving the talker my undivided attention? It is one thing to have outside sources of distraction, but, to have the distraction come from within, the internal noise is something that absolutely needs to be worked on.
I pride myself in being patient and not attempting to talk over someone. I make it a point to know when it is a good time to chime in. However, my task is to not analyze what the speaker is saying while he or she is saying it. While analyzing is great, I could possibly be missing pertinent information. Working on these problems will greatly assist those in counseling by affording the counselor the opportunity to gather all the needed information and make of the analysis and assessments needed to best serve and treat patients. I intend to act by diligently working toward improving my communicating skills which will intern make me a better communicator in all aspects of my life.
Petersen, J. C, (2007). Why don’t we listen better? Communicating and Connecting in Relationships.
Tigard, OR: Petersen Publications, 2007.