When You’re Hearing What’s Not Being Said

Since so much of how we communicate now is written – either email or text – it’s really easy to get caught up in imagining the tone in which something is said. That’s the problem to be honest, we are imagining. This leads to all kinds of unnecessary upset and if you really want to protect your peace, you’ll need to do a better job of making sure you don’t read too much into unspoken conversations. When you’re hearing what’s not being said, you are getting yourself worked up and inviting drama in!

when you are hearing what's not being said
woman with phone reading text message

When You’re Hearing What’s Not Being Said

You know exactly what this feels like, we all do! Maybe you’ve been the listener as someone relays a conversation to you – one that was texted or maybe it was an email exchange, a comment on a social media post, you get the picture. The way the exchange is relayed to you is done so with all kinds of emotion, intonation, and emphasis. But the reality? They are just written words. We don’t really know if the words were meant to be said with snark, sarcasm, and venom.

Why We Do This

I don’t have a clear answer as to why we do this except to say something sets off a trigger within us. Our immediate response is one of protection and defense so we start circling the wagons! We try hard to get someone on our side, to understand we’ve been wronged, to validate how we feel. We tell our friends, our spouses, anyone who will listen usually except for the person who actually sent the message. But what if we got it wrong?

The Truth Is

The truth is we do not know how someone is saying something based on the written word. I am a believer that the how of saying something is just as important as the what when we are actually speaking. But in these kinds of situations, more investigation is required. When my boys were young and they’d relay a story or exchange to me, I’d often point out to them that unless they checked with the person, it was not really right to assume someone felt one way or another. As an adult with friends I try to do the same. It’s not easy when you’re the listener but you also have great power! You can help diffuse a situation by pointing out that it is hard to know what the intention was behind a message or text unless we check it out.

When you are the listener, urge the person to ask and find out rather than fuel the fire. This is why feelings are hurt and never addressed. We’d rather stew in it then confront it. It’s easier to find someone to agree with us than to find the words to say, “what did you mean by this” or “my feelings were hurt” – and that’s a shame. Worse yet, there are some people who live for drama – they are not the people I want close to me btw – and they encourage you to do the wrong thing. By wrong thing I mean fix it and move on. They are the ones who like to add fuel to the fire and then they run off and watch it burn, you along with it!

The Exceptions

Of course there are exceptions. Sometimes we use all caps, italics, underline, bold, all the fancy tools we have at our disposal to help communicate. The DM’s between my coworkers and me are often sprinkled with GIFs for emphasis and we know when we use all caps it means we are yelling! Using all caps means different things to different people, however, as my mother uses them in texts often to emphasize something. We have all tried to explain texting etiquette to her but it’s wasted breath. So, sure, there are exceptions!

Do This

The next time this happens to you, do this: accept that sometimes you are hearing what’s not being said and implying you know what the sender really means. Unless you are a mind reader you do not. Even if it is someone you know well, don’t count on it. You owe it to yourself to take a step back and ask. A little grace may need to given all around. If you really want to protect your peace you’ll need to let some things go and stop imagining the worst from people.

Have you ever been the person who was misunderstood? Maybe it was the message you sent that came across differently than you anticipated or intended. It’s when this happens that you realize how easily things can go sideways and how you wish the person would have asked you and checked with you before believing what they did. So let that be your impetus to stop implying the emotion or intent- stop hearing what’s not being said and take things as presented.

If you are a blogger or social media influencer you have probably had a troll or negative comment come your way. When my friends and I talk about these and read them to one another it’s always done with such gusto! As if we know the person and their voice. It’s all in good fun for the most part and we develop a thicker skin because of it but it’s not pleasant. What I will never do is encourage a response other than: thanks for your comment, have a great day! The less attention we pay to these things the better off we are and I want peace for myself and everyone else.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post! My intention is to get you thinking and create a more positive, peaceful life. It’s not easy for anyone, we all struggle. But I am a firm believer that as long as we are breathing we are capable of change!

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