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Why People Don't Hear You

Have you ever conducted a meeting, taught a class, or socialized with a group?

That’s an easy “yes,” right?

Now, have you presented something to them, or just had a conversation, and then when you talk to some of them later, it’s like they heard something completely different than what you said?

It’s like they weren’t even present.

Why does that happen?

Why can a group of people sharing the same experience come away with entirely different interpretations of what was said, taught, or discussed?

Most people I’ve spoken to about this will tell you that the other person wasn’t listening.

But what if I told you it was more than that?

See, as human beings, we are all meaning-making creatures.

We make meaning through our interaction with the environment and experiences.

But how we make meaning can differ widely from one person to another.

That’s because we are on different plateaus in our journey of adult development.

Some people filter everything through the lens of what their peer group finds important.

Others filter experience through their sense of mission or goals.

And others can take it all in and consider multiple perspectives. They are the ones that seem to hear what is said accurately.

Some people call this maturity.

I prefer the term mental complexity.

People with higher levels of mental complexity will seem more mature.

However, suppose we insist on mainly hiring the younger generations (we should hire them) and excluding adults over 40 (we shouldn’t do that, and it’s illegal). In that case, we won’t have an organization with much maturity/mental complexity.

That’s because it takes time to develop.

So the best organizations will have a mix of maturity levels, a mix of younger and older workers.

And the older workers should invest time in mentoring the younger. It’s another type of diversity.

It’s a vision for the future from which we all will benefit.

What do you think?

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