The more intelligent we are, the more we (think) we understand people. The more we are able to understand what they say. The more we are able to anticipate what they are going to say. The more we are likely to stop listening because we have not only figured out what they are going to say, we have already formulated our response preemptively.
This is a trap I sometimes find myself falling into, even several years after trying to imbibe Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood.
There are usually four levels of listening:
- selective listening
- attentive listening
What most of us fail to do on a regular basis is the highest form of listening – empathetic listening.
Even after studying about empathetic listening as the pillar of human communication, we sometimes stray away from it. The problem is often our intelligence.
Our intelligence dictates that communication is intended for comprehension. In reality, most communication in close relationships is intended to convey emotion.
Our intelligence, working like an overclocked CPU, becomes hyperactive in anticipating what others are saying, relishes the discovery of our anticipation proving correct, gets high in narcissistic self-approval while the residual part of our brain spits out our already formulated response. By this time, our intelligence is already anticipating probable responses to what we have spit out, and readying our responses to it.
Intelligence is often lethal to empathy.
There is a higher intelligence that can help us identify situations where communication is not intended for comprehension but to convey emotion. There is a higher intelligence in understanding that comprehension constitutes only 10% of the communication; 30% of it is in the tone, 60% of it is in the body language. Our intelligence can cause myopia in focusing on that 10% of verbal communication.
We need to teach our intelligence to understand that it can be a very ineffective tool for human communication, unless its powers are harnessed not for comprehension but for more empathy.