Listening requires focus and attention, and failure to listen is one of the key causes of miscommunication (Sole, K. (Chapter 2, 2011).Making connections: Understanding interpersonal communication. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc). I think at some point in time everyone has been guilty of believing that they knew someone better than they actually did. When we assume we know all there is to know about a friend or a loved one, I believe that we unknowingly stop listening to them. One perfect example of this would be my best friend Carla and I. Carla and I have known each other for many years, we were friends in High school, roommates in college and godparents to one another’s children, so one would naturally think that we knew each other VERY well. One year for Carla’s birthday she asked me to make her a cake, and obviously I agreed. The day of her birthday celebration I arrived with the cake and presented it to her, only to have her wind up extremely unhappy.
Carla was under the impression that she had specified she wanted her favorite cake, which happened to be strawberry, but she did not, had she specified she wanted me to make a strawberry cake I would have declined because i am extremely allergic to strawberries, if I consume them I’m nauseated if I touch them I break out in a sever rash. Even after Realizing that she had not requested a strawberry cake she remained upset claiming that as her best friend I should have known she wanted me to make a specific cake and I remained upset because I felt like she either didn’t know or didn’t care about my allergies and as a friend neither of those options were ok. At some point we were able to realize that we failed each other.
Had we communicated with one another we could have avoided an unnecessary fight. One way we could have avoided our misunderstanding would have been to actually say exactly what we wanted each other to know, Carla could have asked for what she wanted from me instead of assuming that since I know how much she loves strawberries, that I’d be making a strawberry cake and I could have asked more questions about what she wanted rather than assume that because she knows my allergies she knew I wouldn’t be making her favorite cake.
Another way to avoid that type of situation is to actually listen and focus on the conversation that you’re having. This is where I think active listening comes into play. We weren’t intentionally ignoring each other but I think that our long-term friendship and assumption about how well we knew each other caused us to only listen partly as opposed to completely. In the future I fully intend to be an active listener and completely engage myself in discussions that I have.
Sole, K. (2011).Making connections: Understanding interpersonal communication. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc