Said vs Heard

Communication, especially the spoken word, can be a tricky thing.  Most of the time, it’s simple: one person says something, and another person hears it and responds accordingly.  This happens dozens, if not hundreds of times a day, and we don’t even think about it.  Well, I don’t.

Sometimes, though, what is said isn’t what is heard.  For example, my wife might say, “The garbage needs to be emptied.”

That’s pretty straightforward, but what I actually hear is, “Sometime in the next few days, one of us is going to need to consider emptying the garbage can.”  

Now, responding to what was actually said rarely leads to strife, but that interpretation?  Well…

So, last night a friend of mine said to me, “Oh no, I dropped my phone.”  Six words, only four of them actually communicating the situation: pretty straightforward.  

What I actually heard was, “Hey, I know we’re 45 minutes from the trailhead and there are only 60 minutes of daylight left, but we need to go back up the path to find the phone that I dropped.  Also, the last time I knew I had it was fifteen minutes ago, and–just to make things fun–it might have fallen in between rocks or into the brush on the side of the trail, so this search might just take a while.”

What he said was not what I heard, and what I heard caused my pulse to quicken even more than the hilly terrain had.

Ah, the joys of a weekday hike.

I pulled my phone from my pocket and called his.  The sounds of the breeze in the trees and birds in the distance are beautiful to listen to, but I was hoping to hear something else.  We started back up the hill.

Twenty five yards later, I dialed his number again.  Silence, except for the aforementioned breeze and birds.

Twenty five yards and another attempt…yes!  

“I see it!” he said, jogging ahead to grab it from the leafy debris it had fallen into.

For the record, no flashlights were needed to finish the hike.  Beautiful weather, a nice trail, and good conversation all contributed to a wonderful evening.  Fortunately, it wasn’t nearly the story it could have been.

12 thoughts on “Said vs Heard”

  1. Hah! I love this exploration into what is said vs what is heard. It can definitely lead to some unnecessary stress and definitely some problems for either or both parties. I guess that’s why a common technique for working out misunderstandings or to show what you have learned is to repeat back what you think was said? I’m glad the phone was found.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tim, I love the way you tell stories. I mean, the way you write stories. I am completely drawn in every time. All I can say is, however, what you heard, and what I would have been thinking, are so totally different…your “pulse quickened”. Yeah, I may have been a bit more unnerved, honestly. Glad you still had a great hike.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m glad this was a story that turned out to be…not so much of a story. Had it been me, you would have been out there a long while, since I keep my phone on vibrate 99% of the time. Glad your friend had slightly more sense. =)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your phone might have been more of a problem! I keep my notification sounds off, but my ringer on. Many people who don’t know me complain about not getting through via text as fast as they would like, but those who know me understand if it’s urgent they should call. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You had me on the edge of my seat! I was thinking you would be looking for quite a while. I’m so glad it wasn’t “the story if could have been”.
    I had to laugh when you explained what you “heard” compared to what your wife said. Amazing interpretation. My husband hears the same exact thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Seriously, now this could be a book, Tim, on the various interpretations of what we hear. I’d never thought of your interpretation of the garbage is full statement, which has opened my eyes to why my husband doesn’t understand my own implicit statement about the garbage being full. I often think about when I need to be more clear without sounding bossy. But, as teachers, we know that sometimes we just have to give “a told”. Right? Love this post.

    Liked by 1 person

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