It’s a common refrain in drama and comedy, one person is talking and the other is listening, but not actually hearing what is going on with dramatic or comedic results.  Shakespeare is full of this stuff which is one of the reasons that his plays are still loved and relevant today. Because this stuff happens to us all the time.  One person says something, the other person is listening because they want to know and understand what is being said and the message that is being imparted underneath the symbols (words, gestures, facial expressions, posture…)  But what is being communicated and what get’s heard end up being two different things.

Even when the people are really trying to communicate, trying to understand each other and express important things, making themselves vulnerable and therefore connecting deeply, things get misunderstood.  All the memes and the common wisdom and the pop psychology says that this is because we’re too engrossed in our own world, our own needs, we’re too involved in our own drama to be able to listen to what is going on.  Or we’re not open enough to new or different things to hear what is actually being said.  We assume we know and don’t question and act on our conclusions.  And this, to one extent or another is true in any given moment.  The beauty and amazingness of humans is that we valiantly strive to work past all that and cleanly, clearly connect despite them every once in a while.  And when we don’t we’re still doing pretty good and we make things better and create good lives and good relationships, sometimes even magical moments which wouldn’t have occurred if we were seeking perfection or slinking away because we couldn’t achieve it.

But something that people don’t realize in all that gobble-de-gook is that the listening and not hearing can help us to discover why.  Like dye on a porous surface where the texture and underlying structure of a thing comes into high relief, having conversations where we discover that we haven’t heard what the other is saying can also point out that we haven’t heard what we were saying.  They can help us discover our assumptions, our buttons, our issues that we’re currently working on without knowing it.  And that’s an amazing gift that can help us survive the tragedy once it has come to its inevitable denouement or lead us to the comedic ending that Shakespeare wished for all of us poor mortals.