Monday, December 4, 2017

A Jack Reacher Lesson to Remember!

"Look, Don’t See. Listen, Don’t Hear."
I was reminded of this wonderful old adage by Jack Reacher. For those of you who don’t know who Jack Reacher is, go to a bookstore and pick up a Lee Child novel.

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Reacher is this Bruce-Willis-in-Die-Hard kind of character. He’s an ex-US Military MP who lives in the United States of America but in no particular city or apartment. He’s the quintessential wanderer who goes where his feet and heart and some means of transport take him. He has no luggage, no credit cards, no clothes other than the ones he’s wearing at the moment. Whenever necessary, he buys a new set and trashes the old one. The one thing he does carry in his pocket is a tooth brush. Oh, and he seems to find extreme trouble wherever he goes.

But this post is not about Jack Reacher. It is about this communication lesson he reminded me of in one of his latest exploits.

One of the ways to become a good communicator is to always be alert and observe your environment. You can pick up a lot of unintended information from the surroundings (and the people who inhabit those surroundings) if you only “look” and “listen.”

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And looking is not the same as seeing just as listening is not the same as hearing. Seeing and hearing are automatic. If your visual and aural mechanism works, you will have to see and hear. You have no choice in the matter. So as you walk down the street, you see and hear all that is available within the range of your sensory abilities of sight and sound. At the end of your walk, though, if I asked you what you saw, you would only be able to identify those objects and auditory signals that you actually “looked at” or “listened to.”

That’s the trouble policemen have when they investigate a public event that has multiple witnesses. People look at and listen to only certain sights and sounds that are available in their surroundings. The sights and sounds they choose to concentrate on depends on their individual mental filters—their own personalities, their interests, their knowledge-set, their previous experiences, their moods and emotions etc. etc. etc. Policemen investigating a public crime have to sift through almost as many clashing statements as there are witnesses.

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Going down Lansdowne Road, for instance, someone who’s very, very hungry may be drawn to those sights—the farsan being freshly fried in the old Gujarati shop, the puchchkawala, the mishti displays, the roadside kachori seller—and thus would probably miss a huge hoarding advertising a cellphone operator that allow you to make calls at 1 paisa for 2 seconds. Similarly for sounds: at any given moment, you have many layers and types of sound available to you. You can hear all of them but you can only choose to listen to some of them. The sounds you prioritise and give your attention to may vary according to your mental state and your needs of the moment.

Looking and listening are choices you make; seeing and hearing are not. When you really look at or listen to something you can see and hear, you process the information received not only with your audio-visual mechanism but also your mind and all its components.

Of course, you may engage your mind in various degrees according to your needs and desires. But that is another post.

The author, Dr. Ranee Kaur Banerjee, is Managing Partner at Expressions@Worka training, consulting and mentoring studio for the development of communication and soft skills


aditya bubna said...

Hello maam, I am aditya bubna from J.D BIRLA, first semester,section C, and it was a pleasure attending your lecture today.During your class you conducted an experiment.I think it was conducted to show how important listening is,and how hearing and listening are two different things all together.The way my 4 classmates narrated the story and the way it changed in due course was certainly a proof how listening and hearing are two different things.I suppose that the minute details that were missed by my classmates during their narration was because their priority was to complete the given task i.e. narrating it to the other fellow rather than listening to your story, which is why I think they missed out those details while narrating the story.

Dr. Ranee Kaur Banerjee said...

Hi Aditya, that's a good point. We do this a lot. We are often so busy formulating our response to what the other person is saying that we only half hear what is being said--A good, thoughtful analysis-- thank you.

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