Selective listening may be the simplest way to start a fight with your significant other. I'm well aware that I'm guilty of it. I listen to what he says and assume I understand what he means, which isn't always a good thing.
This misunderstanding is usually caused by the fact that I am not listening at all. I'm hearing what I want to hear while tuning out everything else. As a result, I have my own version of the entire conversation, which is usually inaccurate. Many women joke that their husbands listen selectively, but could we all be a little guilty of it?
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What Is Selective Listening and Why Is It Dangerous?
Selective listening, also known as selective attention, is the phenomenon in which we only see and hear what we want to see and hear what we want to hear. It's a type of mental filtering in which we tune out someone else's opinions or ideas when they don't match ours. This is more than just a bad habit or impolite behavior. It is part of a larger issue that occurs when you are unable to hear what someone has to say because you refuse to submit to the underlying confrontation. That potential conflict is the real reason we frequently stop listening to what others have to say; we've already decided they're wrong because we're right.
If you want to be a good listener, you must first care.
Priorities are at the heart of good listening. If we believe something is important and worth listening to, we are more likely to tune out all background noise and focus solely on that one thing. However, if we are listening to our spouse remind us to get milk, we are likely to be more focused on the celebrity gossip show we are watching and listening to. In fact, our brains were designed to prefer certain audio cues over others!
We are always selectively listening, whether we are aware of it or not. Science has proven that our brains can determine which conversations to tune out (regardless of how many are going on around us at the same time), but our brains also allow us to focus on specific conversations individually while multiple conversations compete for our attention.
Selective Hearing Can Cause You to Be Close-Minded and Destroy Relationships You ValueThough refusing to hear the request to take out the garbage may appear petty, selective hearing as a whole is significant. It completely closes you off to accepting, or even considering, new ideas. This, in turn, influences what you choose to believe and learn.
More importantly, if your partner is tired of you “not hearing” them ask you to do the dishes or fold the laundry, he or she may not stick around to see what else your ears ignore. Relationships can only function if communication is open and honest, and selective hearing makes it difficult to understand the needs and desires of others. Indeed, some people may interpret your refusal to truly listen as evidence that you are manipulating the relationship and making it completely one-sided.
You'll understand why you need a change when you recall the memory of not being listened to.Recognizing that you may suffer from selective listening is not enough; you must change and become a better partner and friend.
Consider the last time it was obvious that the person you were speaking with was uninterested in what you were saying. They clearly didn't want to hear what you had to say, and even if they nodded, your words were going in one ear and out the other. Wasn't it frustrating?
Why do you believe that person was ignoring you? Was it because of the timing of the conversation? Were you interfering with something significant? Was it a deep conversation in which you knew the other person would disagree with you?
Think about how that conversation affected every subsequent conversation you've had with that person after the selective listening experience. Has it altered your communication style? It's important to politely ask that person to listen to what you're saying while emphasizing that they don't have to agree with you.
Listening Isn't Just About Your Ears; It's Also About Your Mind
Choosing to be less selective in your listening does not imply that you must be less selective in your opinions and ideas as well. Instead, it is a matter of accepting opposing viewpoints and allowing yourself to consider them. Even if the end result is the same — you aren't open to new ideas, or you will never help unload the dishwasher or dust the living room shelves — that's fine. What matters is that you actively listened and made a decision after carefully considering your options. Consider the impact that could have on your interactions with everyone you meet.
Remember, before reading this article, you might not have realized you were listening selectively or that it could harm your relationships. Be patient with those around you as they strive to become more self-aware as well. And, hey, you could always share this article with them casually!
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