Listening is simple. If you hear the words someone says, you’re listening, right? What else could it mean? Words are powerful, no?
When I was a kid, my father would often say “no” when asked for a dime to buy a piece of candy. But in the car on the way to the store, I’d ask for a dime again and he’d inevitably say “I’m not sure. Maybe.” And usually, by the time we were in the store and I asked a third time, he’d say “ok.” If I had “listened” to his “no,” and he had meant that “no,” I would have never had that piece of candy.
I learned at a very young age the fickleness of words. That’s why I’m not entirely sure why it took until my sophomore year of college to really, truly get that language has this amazing underlying meaning behind it. I was in an acting class and the teacher had us deconstruct a scene in a play (which was only dialogue and stage instructions), to understand the motivations and personality behind the words. Essentially, we were construction a human being backwards to forwards - typically the words come out because of the personality of someone, but we had the words first and had to come up with the personality behind them. And it was in this class that I realized that the words we speak are really just the shell of communication and that there are layers upon layers (think onion) of underlying meaning. You can say “I love you” a hundred different ways and mean a hundred different thing.
Yes, this is a really basic topic to consider now. But it's a point I think we all very easily forget, especially when it comes to communicating with a loved one. For some reason, it’s easy to take something a loved one says and come to all sorts of conclusions about the words they say without connecting it to anything but the words. If you haven’t given your partner a hard time for some word they said that you didn’t like, you're a much better person than me.
So we’re all familiar with this concept; anyone who has spoken or heard a word knows that words are empty. And, more to the point of what I’m getting at here, anyone who has educated him/herself in the art of communication understands that what we say isn’t what we mean; what we say is what is understood by our audience. So, in an attempt to be a better audience member, to better listen and actually hear what whomever I’m listening to has to say, I plan to continue to explore this concept of “listening.”