If you have been with the same person, in marriage or some other type of committed partnership, you may sometimes feel as though your partner is listening to what you say, but not necessarily hearing you. By this, I am making the distinction between being “heard” and just noticing the sound waves emanating from your lips and chest. We often get so conditioned to hearing the sound of our significant other’s voice that we tune out what they are actually saying. Well, a new study puts an interesting twist on this idea by revealing that in a crowd, your partner can hear you above other voices predominately, but don’t always choose to listen to the familiar voice.
The study was conducted at Queen’s University on couples ages 44-79 who had been together at least 18 years. In a crowd of voices speaking, people were easily able to pick out their spouse’s voice above all others and determine what they were saying. The study also showed that those who could recognize their spouse’s voice could also just as easily ignore them, tuning into ‘strangers’ voices instead. What does this say about living with people long-term and the effect our intimate, daily interactions have on us? If we can hear what the other person is saying, but choose not to listen to what they are saying – isn’t this the same thing as listening, but not hearing them?
Sometimes familiarity and comfort takes the sharpness out of life’s experiences and not always to our benefit. Though being in a recognizable circumstance with people we know can help us open up on deeper levels like vulnerability and emotional availability, sometimes they can condition us away from being present, like we were in those first few meetings or dates. The trick to keeping any relationship alive and healthy it to constantly practice hearing what the other person is saying, without jumping to conclusions as to what your answer or response would be. Most of the time we just want to be heard. Feeling validated and accepted for who we are and what is going on inside of us is likely one of the most basic needs any human has.
When we listen to someone, as words coming out of their mouth and don’t really pay attention to what they are actually saying, we are invalidating feelings, on one level, and ignoring what is really trying to be communicated. So whether we can hear their voice in a crowd and distinguish it from a thousand others becomes less important and even superfluous to really hearing what they have to say. (Unless you are lost in a subway and really need to find your mate).
The trick to hearing what another is saying, behind the words, is to give full attention and 100% eye contact. Looking someone in the eyes activates a deeper understanding, more on the level of telepathy, wherein thoughts can be transferred that can not be expressed in words. Sometimes we mask what we are trying to say out of fear of rejection, but someone who is really in-tune – knows what is trying to be said anyway. We’ve all had that friend who could “read” us like a book despite what we attempted to convey. This was due to their ability to hear beyond the words and listen to the heart of the matter being expressed.
Studies so often relay very little beneficial information. They are biased to one idea and neglect the bigger picture which influences the participants and those who would use the information granted by the study in the future. In the recent Queen’s University study of spouses picking out their partner’s voice in a crowd, it may be more beneficial to know how often you are really being heard. Because no matter if they can hear you in a crowd or not, the real issue is – do they listen when it matters? This question may go beyond the scope of any study, though it is the question behind every disagreement ever had between any people. So, perhaps it would be beneficial to ask yourself today – when someone requests your ear – if you are really listening, or just hearing their voice?
Written by: Stasia Bliss