I’ve been volunteering in my friend’s first grade classroom. At times the group of six and seven year old’s can get a little too rambunctious. On one such occasion I interjected, “T.O., T.O.” and made a “T” with my hands. Not wanting to continue until all of the kids were quiet I repeated myself. In response one little boy shouted “I’m not Theo! My name’s Gunner.”
Stifling my laughter, I set the record straight explaining that I was trying to get the group’s attention by saying T.O. which means time out. Gunner heard “Theo” and thought I was singling him out, which was not the case at all.
The point is, it’s very easy to hear things incorrectly and overreact in our response. Sometimes we mishear things because of the tone in the delivery, the context of the statement, or simply just not listening carefully. Communication is a two-way street that requires both parties to look before crossing, or in this case assess before speaking. In that moment I realized the error of assuming that any statement is straightforward. Words and their meanings can be interpreted in a variety of ways depending on how they are heard.
There are two equal parts in communication, speaking and listening. Communication is different than conversation. Communication is the means to express an idea, need, or feeling, and must be done with careful thought. Listening also requires careful thought. The next time you hear something incorrectly, you needn’t respond with an “I’m not Theo!” Instead, just pause or take a “Theo” and ask yourself what the intention of the statement really was. More than likely, it was just a slight misunderstanding with no real intent to confuse or cause anger. The better the communication, the better the connection we will have with one another.
(credit to the Japanese artist of “Ears” Tomio Miki https://www.mutualart.com/Artist/Tomio-Miki/396266397B8CB1AF/Biography)