Did You Hear What I Said?

I recently read an article in the New York Times called “You’re Not Listening. Here’s Why.” that resonated with me. It states that we do not listen attentively to the people with whom we are most intimate because we assume that we know what they will say and consequently how we will respond. Over the years, my husband often expressed frustration with me for that very reason, contending that I listen more attentively to my patients than to him. Admittedly, his accusations contain some truth.

The article also mentions how identical twins who spend countless hours together can develop a pattern of not truly listening to each other because they have lived together for most of their lives. “When my sister moved, we were forced to recognize we had all these preconceived notions about who the other was,” says an identical twin named Kaleena Goldsworthy. “We weren’t really listening to each other, which made it harder for us to really know each other.”

This is the case for many adult twins that I treated over the years. Their communication patterns stifled their willingness to listen to one another and established habits of inattention and obliviousness. In some ways, this conundrum reinforces the proverb that familiarity breeds contempt, especially when that familiarity interferes with staying fully present while communicating with intimate others.

Do you think you and your loved ones would benefit from cultivating more attentive listening skills? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Image courtesy of 70023venus2009 (CC BY-ND 2.0)

1 Comment

  1. Mark Lowenthal

    As an identical twin, I think this is a really key observation.

    I know that one of the most serious ‘hurdles’ in my twin relationship is that my twin and I have a truckload of misconceptions about each other. This makes communicating difficult, because rather than really listening to each other, I think the undercurrent (and perhaps true objective) is the need to establish our individual identities. By not really listening to each other (because we already know what the other is going to say), the problem is actually compounded, because we’re robbing each other of our individuality.

    I doubt anyone enjoys not being fully listened to because the person we’re talking to ‘already knows’ what we’re going to say. With twins, however, this basic negation can lead to a mutually reinforcing cycle of proxy ‘identity’ battles — rather than actual communication. And this dynamic can only generate a compounding sense of resentment.

    Perhaps this may have more to do with my particular wiring, but I think this is pretty universal.

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