When in discussion with a certain someone, I’d suddenly become aware of the fact that she was finishing every one of my sentences for me. It wasn’t malicious, it was … hmmm, what’s the right word? ... “enthusiastic listening”. She was so intent on letting me know that she was on the same page as me that she kept flaunting our symbiosis by speaking my mind for me. Now here’s the real problem: she was almost always wrong. I would be on my way to saying one thing, she’d interrupt, and I’d have to start my thought over again in order to make the actual point I was trying to make.
Me: “If we bring flyers to the school, we can—“
Her: “I know, hand them out to all the kids. Great idea.”
Me: “Oh, okay, we could do that. But I was going to say we could give them to the teachers to hand out.”
Her: “Right. Give them to the teachers. We could do that too.”
You can see there’s a twofold problem for me: one, the obvious one of being interrupted and misread, but two, the subtler one of the voice in her head being so eager (and clearly much louder than my own), trumping the idea I was about to present and making it seem … lame. And ironically, her habit seems to deflate her too: one, because she’s not on as “same” a page as she thought, and two, because she kinda really likes her own idea now much better and foresees a (possibly lengthy) debate.
It used to really irk me. (I’ve had issues with being “heard”.) Until I found myself doing it too. Repeatedly. To all kinds of people. Then I read somewhere (wish I could find the link for you) that studies show that while we all spend time interpreting other people’s thoughts and intentions, we’re only right 20% of the time. 20%!!! If we’re really gifted and sensitive, it maybe gets bumped up to 30%. That means ALL OF US ARE WRONG ABOUT PEOPLE’S INTENTIONS 70 to 80 percent of the time! Can you believe that?!
I realized that rather than getting irked when it happened to me, I had to do my own homework. I’d have to restrain that voice in my head that can get very LOUD and INSISTENT and, quite honestly, a little OVER ENTHUSIASTIC. So I came up with a game plan: Stop finishing other people’s sentences! Stop trying to convey how much you “get” them! Listen, listen, listen! You can always formulate ideas after you’ve heard the one on the table first. It’s not a race.
And maybe I can hit that 30% mark. But don’t interrupt me. Please.
Deb: I am both a perpetrator and victim of this senseless crime. My excuse is that I get so excited sometimes that I just burst out. Most of the time I say, “Sorry I interrupted you,” but by then the damage is done.
Other people do it to me, and for the most part I can see that it is because they are excited too.
Bottom line is, we do not listen well enough to each other. Well, many of us anyway. And the truth is, I am a very good listener and a major question asker. I am genuinely interested in people and their lives. But when something they say sparks something in my brain, I blurt.
But here is my take on the whole affair. My rule is to try to appreciate the person’s intention.
Are they simply forcing their stuff on me or are they just enthusiastic? The enthusiasts can be forgiven, but should learn to wait for it… wait for it… wait for it...
I am one of those enthusiasts, always down on myself when I interrupt, but doing it nonetheless. It is something I truly work on ALL THE TIME.
But those of us who think that our poo is just more interesting than the next guy’s poo, shut up and listen. If you do, you may find yourself responding with something far more intriguing than the thought that was ruminating in your noggin while you watched the other person’s lips moved. Take it from a pro.
PS Stay tuned for a new 3-way on Friday! And a new recipe and deco tip on Saturday.