Errors in listening, cogitating, and speaking

Interpersonal communication errors can occur for many reasons during the acts of listening, cogitating, and/or speaking.

For example, in a conversation involving two people (A & B), person A may mishear (listening error) what B said; and/or person A may misunderstand or miscogitate what they heard; and/or person A may misspeak.

Errors in any part of that communication process will cause some sort of confusion between A and B. Errors can be of many types. The speaker may mispronounce, misenunciate, use the wrong word, be inadvertently misleading, hit a wrong tone of voice, etc. In turn, the listener may mishear, be inattentive, be overly attentive to one aspect of what the speaker is saying, not know a word or a reference, etc. Next, even if the listener heard correctly, they may misunderstand or miscogitate by making wrong associations, drawing wrong conclusions, etc. Any unconscious error in hearing or cogitating will probably lead the listener to misspeak when it is their turn.

Errors of these sorts if not corrected will compound and cause the conversation to become unsatisfying or confusing.

It is the goal of FIML practice to catch these errors as soon after they arise as possible. FIML partners should strive to be perfect with each other in all three of these communication areas–listening, cogitating, and speaking. The best way to do this is to pay close attention to yourself. If you feel an emotional jangle, be sure to confirm with your partner (by doing a FIML query) that your jangle is justified. If it is not, you have discovered an error. Correct the error and continue.

One very simple and common jangle involves feeling irritated (even very, very slightly) at your partner because they did not understand what you said (probably not so clearly). Take it as a given that our uses of language are frequently less than perfect. You must expect that a good many of the things you say will not be stated as clearly as they could be; many more of them, though clear enough, will contain ambiguities or misleading word choices. If as a speaker you become irritated at your partner for something that is inevitable in your own speech, you are making a huge mistake.

Another common jangle involving cogitation is feeling stupid or inattentive when your partner makes an association that you did not get even though you heard all of their words correctly. This jangle could also involve thinking your partner is stupid or not making sense because you did not get what they said. Either way, it is crucial that both FIML partners know that these kinds of mistakes in cogitation are quite common. Identify them when they occur–as soon as you can–and correct them.

A third common jangle, this time involving hearing, is attributing a wrong emotion or intention to the speaker’s tone of voice. The human  speech apparatus is not that highly developed. To speak, we have had to re-purpose our teeth, lips, and tongues, which other animals use for eating, to make noises that convey sometimes sophisticated meaning to other people. How could things not go wrong with that? We also breathe, vomit, kiss, and do other stuff with that same oral cavity. FIML partners must recognize that we are working with a primitive “wind instrument” when we talk and that this instrument may blow too hard, get clogged with phlegm, or experience many other kinds of mishaps that can distort the sounds of our voices. A person with a high, soft voice can easily be misunderstood as being a light-weight, while a person with a deep voice and large lungs can easily be misheard as being aggressive when they are not. Each one of us should be aware of how our voices might be misunderstood and then apply this level of detail to understanding, at least, our partner’s voice.

Another common listening jangle/error that can occur, even if you clearly understand all of the above, is a speaker’s tone of voice can be seriously misunderstood if we think it refers to us when it is referring to the subject at hand. For example, you say something about the car needs fixing and your partner responds in an irritated tone of voice. If you hear that irritation as referring to you when your partner is just sick of the damn car, you will be making a serious mistake. If you say nothing, you may simmer with wrong bad feelings for some time, which often leads to yet more bad feelings. If you do say something, you may start an argument and/or otherwise greatly compound the original problem. All that actually had happened was your partner expressed a fairly primitive emotion (irritation at the damn car) which you misunderstood to mean irritation at you. Your partner used our crude speech apparatus to grunt irritation at a very common problem and you used your crude ears and listening abilities and crude tendency to think everything applies to you to make a big mistake, one that will only add to the original problem.

As you and your partner continue doing FIML practice, you will get better and better at finding and correcting these kinds of errors the moment they arise. It’s not always easy, but it is always very satisfying if you discuss the matter long enough for both of you to achieve a real resolution.

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