It’s 10:00am. I have been talked to today, but only like this: Breakfast smells good. Breakfast smells weird. I accidentally broke this. I forgot that. Can I have some applesauce?

Not a lot of room for different interpretations – not a lot of opportunities to practice LISTENING HARD. So, this is what I am going to do. I am going to write about the principle I learned from today’s excellent episode. Then, throughout the day, I will look for opportunities to “listen hard”, and report back at the end of the post. Got it? Okay, here we go.

There are four layers to communication:

  • What they actually say
  • What they intend to say – what they are thinking
  • What we hear them say
  • What we interpret what we hear them say – what I am thinking

The problem?

“A lot of times we don’t listen to what they may be meaning. We are much more interested in what we are making it mean.”

Right. They say something to me, and then my thoughts about what I heard them say causes my emotion. This is great news for me! No one has power over me to create my emotions! Even with their words.

Let’s define LISTENING HARD.

When we listen hard, we try to understand the components of what is going on. Listening hard means we are listening for the intention behind what they are saying, not just what they are saying. We are looking at the model in THEIR brain.

Again. Why is this person saying what they are saying? Be careful. We will need to go to THEIR brain for the answer. What are they thinking and feeling that would cause them the action of saying what they said.

  • ACTION – What they are actually saying
  • FEELING – What is driving them to say it
  • THOUGHT – What is causing their feeling

I am new at this. I am learning this skill of listening hard. I will need to evaluate conversations AFTER the conversation takes place until I am better practiced. If I look at the conversation, after the fact, I can break it down. I can practice the skill.


It is now 2:00pm. Let’s talk about a conversation I had today. The situation: A friend is going through a difficult time and asked me to watch her children for a bit. A mutual friend found out that I would be watching the children.

I am trying to get into the mutual friend’s brain right now.

What she actually said – I am grateful you are there to help her and that she trusts her children with you.

What I heard her say – I am too busy to help.

What I interpreted from what I heard her say – I can’t help, I’m too busy, but I don’t want to appear like I am unwilling or unconcerned.

What she (likely) intended to say – I am feeling insecure in my relationship with the children’s mom, and in my relationship with you. I want you to recognize that I am a good helper.

I actually had to stop and remind myself the purpose of the activity – I got a bit caught up in the disparity between what she likely intended to say and what I interpreted what she said to mean.

The purpose of this activity was to choose my thoughts – to give my brain some different thought options – knowing that my thoughts would lead to my emotions.

“Then your brain is open to interpreting with more compassion. It helps you stay out of your own reactive brain.”

If I allow my thoughts to tell me that this woman is being ingenuine, then my emotion will be annoyance, right? But if I allow my thoughts to tell me that she is insecure, then the emotion I feel will be more compassionate.

I’m going to close. We can find it difficult to trust someone’s intentions because of past experiences. We can’t change the past, or the person. Trusting or not trusting their intentions will not change them. But trusting or not trusting their intentions can change my thoughts, my emotions, my actions, and my results. It serves me well to give someone the benefit of the doubt.


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