Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 16 seconds

Speed-hearing as Discrimination?

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 16 seconds

I had an epiphany this morning.

You know how when you really like or respect someone you hang on their every word, notice their every blogpost/tweet etc? I do. Or at least in phases. What those people say has more weight than other people. Sometimes it is not someone i particularly like but whose ideas i respect so their writing has an impact on me.

Now the epiphany is this: I think when we either dislike someone immensely or feel they are unimportant, we may be listening to them less closely. Speed reading their emails. Speed hearing their phone calls.

How did I reach this conclusion? I have a communication issue with someone at my uni. I know I write well, or else I would not have this (relatively) immense online professional presence in such a short time. I know I communicate well orally – have for as long as I can remember. I know I command attention, have so all my life. It is just the way I am.

But this guy, he continually ignores some of my accomplishments at work, referring to them as the work of someone else (that someone else led this work before I joined but we did the stuff he refers to together. We remind him we did it together. He refers to it as someone else’s work). Moreover he constantly makes me question whether I wrote something clearly because his responses indicate he does not know what I just told him. He summarizes what I write (his one sentence for my 3 paragraphs) completely inaccurately and drops a lot of important info I have written or said.

So I am concluding he is speed-reading and Speed-hearing me. I can’t find another explanation for it

And I think it must be a form of discrimination because I am so not used to being looked over (as in almost ignored) this way. Except the occasional male teacher who pretended not to hear my answers, you know, when i said the right answer and the teacher looked away from me abd asked, “does anyone know the answer?” and the smartass boys would just repeat what i said and get the praise?

It is not exactly like that. I keep questioning my professionalism because of this person but it makes no sense. So there must be something about me that makes him not listen. I keep wondering if it’s me, but i have a feeling it is him. Racism, sexism, ageism, something or other. An “I don’t know you so you don’t matter” even though most people, when they know me, feel I matter. How self-centered is that? But who likes to be ignored so frequently and made to question everything they do?

7 thoughts on “Speed-hearing as Discrimination?

  1. This is a really interesting way of considering both the way in which we may be discounted by others and the ways in which we in turn may not pay attention or be as mindful as we should be in dealing with others. Speed-hearing – hummm. Deep, full-bodied empathetic hearing is a challenge. It is always so tempting to be composing answers or responses with one part of your brain rather than listening with every ounce of your being. This is something I have given some thought to – but at least the ‘being in the process of composing a response’ instead of listening fully is still a form of engagement. If I understand correctly speed hearing is about disengagement and disrespect. I really think you are on to something. Over the next few days I am going to have to do some meta-cogknitting and observe whether I inadvertently speed listen.
    Thanks for a thought provoking post Maha.

  2. Agree with Maureen that his is an interesting angle to look at the subject. Though this entirely what would not do: don’t take it on as your own problem. There are people who inflate themselves by this passive aggressive behaviour. Both my Daughters and Leslie have gone through this. It seems to be gender based though I get it too and the commonality is we won’t be silenced or put up with pettiness. We are not to be controlled, silenced or pacified by this kind of crap.
    Growing up in a family with genetic hearing defects there were surprisingly few misunderstandings. It’s about attention, respect and listening. If something you say hurts someone you stop it. Continuing along the same line means you intend to hurt, or by a very, very small chance you are not hearing.
    My experience is the discrimination begins when both parties get frustrated by having to repeat things and stop talking altogether. They stay connected but get tired quickly. of the effort. That’s the sign of a disability wearing people down. Constantly NOT hearing is a behaviour of the ego–and not yours.

    1. Hey Scott, thanks for this. This is making me think beyond the particular situation and into my personal life too (i have told you about it privately before, so you can guess). I also imagine your frustrating healthcare experiences are full of ppl who don’t listen to you properly

  3. Hi Maha. I think that what you describe is fairly common in our field. How closely we listen is related to how much we understand and people in education often operate according to different paradigms. These paradigms describe patterns of belief, expectation and attitude, among other things. People react differently when confronted with a new paradigm: some are curious, some are excited, some are aggressive or suspicious and so on. A negative reaction could result in someone not understanding or not hearing. Of course, politics can complicate this: gender, age, seniority of position… but these are not the triggers. The source of the problem is that someone is doing something differently, and we do not see what it is or why it should be different. A lot of people feel threatened by change.

  4. Marc you are so right about people’s reaction to change. I’ve had people congratulate for having “solid values” or being a champion of the old school based on my age and trades worker background. It’s a kind of solidarity, generational, community spirit thing that falls apart when they hear I think they are full of crap. Un-reflective people who count value in staying in one place don’t care what’s useful or better for the world, they just don’t want to rethink things, challenge themselves or even know what they are doing–how could they? Selfish false confidence.
    Seems to me Maha that you approach the world like David Bohm where discourse is a dynamic medium of exchange. You give and by rights expect to get in an honest and respectful manner. People’s memorized “ideas” and stale “conversational” comments are a sign that THEY aren’t listening or being at all responsive. Authenticity scares people, they don’t know what to do because it makes them feel vulnerable. Just like change it requires new thinking and often clumsiness.
    Making yourself available has a price.

  5. Hi Maha, Nancy White was talking about fear in organizations in a recent blog and it had me thinking about the desire to belong as driving a “fear” of loss of membership. My major problems with my medical “helpers” are with those people themselves. As treaters of my disease they seem to be competent but they have rules of membership to qualify for their “care” and are constantly probing my cooperation and loyalty. It’s important to them that I feel vulnerable without their services and meet their obligatory social conditions of patient’hood.

    I’ve always been an outsider. I like people and try and be helpful but don’t like clubs or social structures that separate and nominate some to being better. Fear of difference comes as not just from newness but in resistance to tacit agreements that hold organizations together. Not hearing or recognizing a person, and in your case Maha altering the story of who you are and what you’ve done, is an aggressive form of assaulting your autonomy in the form of “reminding” you of your organizational “place”.

    In many ways this isn’t personal, it’s the organization speaking. It doesn’t matter though that it might be innocently unintentional. It hurts to be isolated but it hurts worse to become what is wanted for the worthless acceptance offered.

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