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Friday, June 5, 2009

OLD Dog Learns NEW Tricks

A person hears only what they understand. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe –

A familiar refrain begins many arguments, “But I told you…”

“You did not!

“Three times.”

“You did?

“Yes, I explained it all to you – Three times.”

“I must not have heard you.”

“You HEARD me allright, you just didn’t understand. Why didn’t you TELL me you didn’t understand.”

Goethe got it right. We only readily hear what we already understand. This is why it is erroneously said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. The first and really only new trick and old dog needs to learn is how to listen hard and well.

Today I saw Goethe’s observations at work. Remember when any adult spoke in Charles Schultz’s imagined world of Peanuts? It was never know what the adult might be saying because we were only treated to what the child heard – a succession of , “Mwah, Mwah, Mwah.”

Thanks to Goethe, today I was aware of the many times that I was hearing but not understanding. I was able to say, “Could you say that another way?” It allowed me to grasp that I didn’t understand and I knew this because I focused on listening hard, like a maestro hearing each note of a new orchestration. Each note making up the impact of the whole. Mastering hearing the whole to understand the parts.

-mary anne radmacher -

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