We’ve all attended parties or bustling restaurants where there are multiple conversations going on all around us. Yet somehow we manage to tune in to the discussion that we want to be having with our friend or partner (especially if some juicy gossip is involved). This is selective hearing at its most positive.
You may have also been frustrated when the same friend or partner seems to have selective hearing when you ask them to do something such as pick up the dry cleaning or remember to use a coaster.
So what’s the difference in the two scenarios? The main thing is not the background noise (although this can play a role) but whether the person you are speaking to deems what you are saying as important to them.
So essentially if the other person doesn’t feel as though there is much benefit to them of listening to what you are saying, or they are doing something else at the time that they think is more interesting, the words can literally float over their head. This is why we may feel frustrated with our partner when they are watching TV while we try to speak with them about our concerns about work. Or why a toddler may appear not to listen when we ask them for the hundredth time not to jump on the sofa. Their priority is to watch their program or enjoy their illegal jumping. Whereas if you were to speak to the partner or toddler and try to tell them that you had a gift for them and would they like to open it, you might find that selective hearing would be less of an issue.
So what does this mean if you find yourself on the receiving end of some selective hearing?
Try to think of a way to get your point across while also ensuring that the listener perceives some benefit to themselves. For instance instead of just asking your partner to take the bins out, why not rephrase it to something like “Would you mind taking the bins out while I pour us a glass of wine?”
Try this idea of positive reframing and see if you can reduce selective hearing in your life.