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.