Engaging in selective listening may be the easiest way to pick a fight with your significant other. I know I’m guilty of it. I listen to what he says and assume I understand what he means, and not always in a positive way.
This misunderstanding typically stems from the fact that I am not actually listening at all. I am hearing what I want to hear and tuning out everything in between. This causes me to have my own version of the entire conversation, and it usually isn’t very accurate. Many women will joke that their husbands have selective listening, but could it be that we are all a little guilty of it?
What Is Selective Listening and Why It Is Problematic
Selective listening, or selective attention, is the phenomenon that occurs when we only see 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’s opinions or ideas when they don’t line up with ours. This isn’t just a bad habit or rude behavior. It’s part of a big problem which results when you are unable to hear what someone has to say because you are refusing to submit yourself to the underlying confrontation. That potential fight is the real reason we often stop hearing what someone has to say; we’ve already decided they’re wrong because we are right.
If You Want to Have Good Listening, You Need to Care First
Good listening ultimately comes down to priorities. If we deem something to be important and worth listening to, there’s a good chance we are going to block out all background noise and focus on that one thing. But if we’re listening to our spouse remind us to get milk, there’s a good chance we’ll be more focused on the celebrity gossip show we’re watching and listening to. In fact, our brains were made to prioritize some audio cues over others!
Whether we are fully aware of it or not, we are always selectively listening. Science has proven that our brains are able to determine which conversations to tune out (no matter how many are happening around us simultaneously), but our brains also give us the ability to focus on specific conversations individually while multiple conversations compete for our attention .
Selective Hearing Can Make You Close-Minded and Destroy the Relationships You Cherish
Though choosing not to hear the request to take out the garbage can seem petty, selective hearing as a whole is a big deal. It completely closes you off to accepting, or even entertaining, different ideas. This ultimately impacts the things you may choose to believe and learn.
More so, the partner who is sick of you “not hearing” them ask you to wash the dishes or fold the laundry may not stick around to see what else your ears ignore. Relationships only work if communication is strong, and selective hearing makes it hard to understand the needs and wants of others. In fact, some people may view your refusal to truly listen as a sign that you are manipulating the relationship and making it completely one-sided.
When You Recall the Memory of Not Being Listened to, You’ll Know Why You Need a Change
Acknowledging that you may sometimes suffer from selective listening is not enough — you have to change and be a better partner and friend.
Think about the last time it was clear to you that the person you were talking to had no interest in what you were saying. It was apparent that they didn’t want to hear what you had to say, and even if they were nodding their head, your words were going in one ear and out the other. Frustrating, wasn’t it?
Why do you think that person was tuning you out? Was it the timing of the conversation? Were you interrupting something important? Was it a deep conversation in which you knew the other person would have opposing views?
No matter what, think about how that conversation has affected every conversation you’ve had with that person after the selective listening experience. Has it changed how you communicate? It’s important to politely ask that person to be open to what you’re saying, but to emphasize that they don’t have to agree with what you voice.
Listening Isn’t Only About Your Ears But Also Your Mind
Choosing to be less selective in your listening does not mean you have to be less selective in your opinions and ideas. Instead, it’s a matter of welcoming differing opinions and allowing yourself to consider them. Even if the end result is the same — you aren’t open-minded about a new idea, or you will never help unload the dishwasher and dust the shelves in the living room — fine. What matters is that you actively listened and made a decision after weighing the options. Imagine the impact that could have on your communication with everyone you encounter.
Remember, before this article, you may not have realized that you ever listened selectively or that it could negatively affect your relationships. So, be patient with those around you as they try to be more self-aware, too. And hey, you could always casually share this article with them!
|||^||Counselling Resource: Selective Listening and Attention: Hearing What You Want to Hear as a Manipulation Tactic|
|||^||Greatist: Hear No Evil: The Science Behind Selective Hearing|