Clarifying what you heard

Sometimes, what a person says isn’t what is heard by a listener — what’s launched isn’t what lands; what’s put down isn’t what’s picked up; what the speaker intended isn’t what’s understood. 

It’s better to say, “I heard …” rather than “You said ….” The former describes what I heard (how the words landed on me) and humbly recognizes the possibility that I might not have heard things the way the speaker intended. It then allows the speaker to clarify differences between what she said and what landed. On the other hand, telling someone what they said (what they launched) can lead to defensiveness and confrontation — especially, when the speaker gets irritated at the misrepresentation and responds with “no I didn’t” and “don’t put words in my mouth.”

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