For this post, I’ve chosen the headline, “Would you listen to yourself?” This simple question could be perceived quite differently by different people. What do you think it means?
Some folks would interpret it as an expression of exasperation. Even though it’s framed as a question, they hear judgement, even condemnation.
For example, Mom asks Sally how she plans to afford her apartment. When Sally responds with, “I’m going to be a movie star,” it’s conceivable that Mom would reply, “Would you listen to yourself?”
Now, we don’t know the context of the conversation. Maybe a career as a movie star is attainable for Sally. However, unless she’s been laying groundwork—developing skills, building a network, succeeding in acting roles—it would be easy to perceive that Sally doesn’t have a well-thought-out plan for paying rent.
In this case, the question suggests that we hold up a mirror, hear what we are saying and evaluate. Do we really believe it? It could also be the case that the question carries some frustration and judgement.
However, this isn’t the only possible interpretation of the question. Let’s try another scenario.
Sam has an opportunity to take on a new career challenge. It offers the potential for an exciting and prosperous future. However, the offer also comes with significant uncertainty. Sam is torn. He has asked for advice from a number of trusted advisors.
Sam’s problem is that the advice is contradictory. Some say “Go for it!” Others say, “No, too risky.” Sam has bounced from person to person, questioning and debating. Finally, one of his wise advisors asks, “Would you listen to yourself?”
These are same five words Mom asked Sally, but here with quite different intent. It’s a suggestion for Sam to look within, to weigh his own knowledge, wants, and risk tolerance. The decision is ultimately Sam’s; he’ll live with the consequences. It’s time for Sam to stop asking and instead, listen to himself.
This suggestion contains no judgement, exasperation, or frustration on the part of the asker. It’s a simple recommendation: “Sam, choose your path yourself.”
“Listen to yourself” can be a gentle invitation to be open to the quiet voice inside us. It suggests that we step away from the noise, chaos and eagerness of others who may perceive that they know what’s best for us. The question invites us to consciously “listen to ourselves.”
I’ve deliberately chosen two scenarios that seemingly have obvious interpretations. But wait! Just for fun, consider the same two scenarios but apply the opposite interpretations.
That is, what if Sally’s mom is actually gently guiding Sally to listen to her inner voice? What if Sam’s colleague is genuinely exasperated with Sam’s indecision? It’s possible that these are, in fact, the true interpretations.
What we get from others is just information; we contribute our interpretations. You and I can hear the same words but perceive them quite differently. And once we’ve fixed an interpretation in our heads, it can be hard to let it go.
Have you ever wondered why a seemingly reasonable person can hold what seems to you to be unreasonable views? Maybe they have a different interpretation of what they are seeing and hearing than you do. Might that be a possibility?
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articles and observations inspired by the work of Dr. William Glasser
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