You CAN’T Be Serious! (Issue 711)

In which we are reminded that we don’t always hear what we think we’ve heard.

“So, this has been a good conversation, why don’t you call me in a couple of weeks and we’ll start the contracting process.”

Smiles exchanged, hands shaken, I stepped out into the humid August “dog days” air. What a great meeting. Not quite time to count the money, and very positive.

I let three weeks pass, giving an extra week for good measure, not wanting to seem too eager.

I called. No reply.

Two more weeks. I called. No reply. I emailed. No reply.

Another two weeks. Same drill. Two more weeks. Again, the same.

Finally….. on November 1, I called and he answered the call.

“I nearly didn’t answer your call,” he said. “You’ve been bugging me for the last couple of months.”

“Sorry,” I said, “…and you said, when we last met, ‘Why don’t you give me a call in a couple of weeks and we’ll start the contracting process. So I gave you three weeks and called…. “

“I meant, give me a call when I have my budgets finished…..”

I remember thinking, “What??? Am I really hearing this? You can’t be serious!”

His idea of a couple of weeks was eight and mine (oh, Nick, you’re so literal) was two with one extra for grace period.

I’m now (wishing she had written it and that I’d read it then) reading a really fascinating book, Sharon Drew Morgen’s What? Did You Really Say What I Think I Heard? (available at no charge here and on iTunes].

Her summary of research on human communication and perception concludes that it’s surprising that we get on as well as we do because, for example (and no matter what we think we’re doing…) we limit what we hear to what is comfortable and habitual (limited by biases, beliefs, wants, wishful thinking, memories, habits, assumptions, content, context, history of the relationship, world view, and so on). Turns out our parents, spouses, children, and others are right – we don’t really hear them.

I heard “a couple of weeks” as “very soon” because my internal ‘hunter’ was filtering for “movement on which to pounce at the earliest possible moment.” My client heard “a couple of weeks” as “in a few weeks when I finish the budget” because he didn’t want to hear from me until he knew how much he had to spend.

Later chapters of the book focus on “….and what we can do about these largely instinctive filters and biases.”

Read this now (strongly recommended!) or suffer in sales forever.


Sharon Drew Morgen  What? Did You Really Say What I Think I Heard? Available free… no charge.

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