What does this REALLY mean?

Active Listening – What does this REALLY mean? Read the following line out loud, with the emphasis on a different word; what is your next question?

I didn’t say he’d stolen the cash … like this

I didn’t say he’d stolen the cash – who did say it?
I DIDN’T say he’d stolen the cash – what did you say?
I didn’t SAY he’d stolen the cash – did you write it, text it?
I didn’t say HE’D stolen the cash – so, someone else did?
I didn’t say he’d STOLEN the cash – just hidden it then?
I didn’t say he’d stolen the CASH – maybe the bag it was hidden in.

When someone reads something you’ve sent them, they put a tone on it themselves. It might be their tone, or the way they imagined you’d say it, which is dependant on how well you know each other and your relationship.

Maybe they are just dealing with something unpleasant and you send an innocuous email … and they take it the wrong way. That joke you heard last night may not sound so good in the cold light of day on an online discussion forum. The mild rebuke someone gives to a colleague or team member seems worse “in print” and maybe it gets blown up into something it is not.

You may have seen statistics telling you that, when you convey a message to someone else:

  • Approximately 2/3 of the message is conveyed by the body language / facial gestures
  • Approximately 1/4 is conveyed by the voice tone / volume / pitch
  • Less than 1/10 is conveyed by the words you use

This is most true of first impressions and if you are unsure of someone. As you get to know each other, you accept each other’s ways of doing things, including mannerisms, body language, gestures, tone etc and concentrate a bit more on the words. However, unless you have nothing else to rely on, you will not be able to completely ignore everything and just hear the words. Nor can you mime your way through life, expecting people to understand just the body language. It is the combination of communication channels which has the impact. So, a telephone conversation cuts off the largest part of the message and a written communication, cuts off the rest. Just re-read the exercise above – bold, caps, underlines show where the emphasis is. There is no guarantee you’ll read it that way though. Listening is a key part of communication skills which can be developed with practice and training. Contact Sue for ideas on developing communication skills.


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