I talked to my counselor/therapist on Wednesday. It was our first official appointment. One thing that stuck out was a question that he asked.
“Do you know what it means to listen?”
I said that it is taking all the information given to you and processing it fully before giving a reply. Wrong! Here is what he told me. He said that we all have filters when we are talking to people. These filters can be familial (what you learned from your family members), social (what you learned from society) and personal (your own views). When we are talking to someone we automatically have these filters put up and our perception of the conversation is based on what filters have been used. If these filters are negative, it doesn’t matter what the person says or does, they will hear what they want to hear. He gave me a great analogy as well.
If a police officer apprehends someone (we will say the person is innocent) who he thinks is guilty, no matter what the person says he will only pick out the information he needs to validate his assumption and will push for a conviction. The person who is wrongly accused will now be painted in a bad light and will possibly go to jail if his lawyer is not competent. This bad stigma will be forever associated with this person even if he has proven his innocence in court.
It is this same principal, good or bad, that we listen to those we engage in a conversation with. Sometimes these filters are put in place even before a conversation is started. These filters could be about race, religion or sexual preference (for example) and they are based out of ignorance.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ignorance as:
:the state or fact of being ignorant : lack of knowledge, education, or awareness
Ignorance and past experiences are what negative filters are based on. How can we truly listen to someone if we don’t have all the information? I didn’t think that I was a bad listener but it is true. We all do it with our family, friends and people we have just met. But, the same way these filters are learned they can be unlearned. We have to choose not to think think this way and learn to listen to all the information without passing judgement first.
It’s the same with a romantic relationship. If your ex used to belittle you and made you feel like garbage, you take that new filter with you in the next relationship. The person you are with now is great and one day they come to you with a suggestion to make things better. Upon the start of the discussion you start to pick out familiar words of your previous relationship and immediately the filter goes up. What started as a conversation ends up in an argument because of the filters used for listening were negatively based. Your significant other cannot understand why this has happened when the original intent was to have a simple discussion.
So I hope you take something from this and think about what negative filters you use and why. Hopefully you can mend prior relationships, if it is not too late, and fix those bridges that you once used.
Have a safe and happy weekend!