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Listening is like a Message in a Bottle

David Sherry
2 min read

If you listen to people, not on an informational level, but on an indirect level. If you listen to people while still holding space to observe what it is they are truly saying, you will find that people will reveal much of what is on their mind, but what is it that's most often on people's minds?

Their problems.

So, in this way, if you learn to truly listen, not to hear the information being said, but to see the problems, persona, and ideals that this person presents—you can pick up on a whole different level of communication that you have never witnessed before.

And, strangely, for the first time, you truly hear other people. You hear what it is that they truly want to share.

If you go on Twitter or any other social media site, it is almost painfully obvious what it is that people wish to express, but say through a mask of different words, or through posturing and pretending not to expose their deepest truths.

If someone is complaining online, if they are saying something like:

"My last boss was so selfish, I simply couldn't work there anymore – selfish people make the worst leaders"

It is almost certain that this person struggles with wondering whether or not they are being too selfish.

It is almost certain that their complaint about someone else is truly a message in a bottle, and on the inside is the true desire, the true fear, and the actual message.

When you ask people about their favorite movies or their favorite songs, why is it that they love these movies or these songs?

Most times, the narrative of the movie has a character they relate to most.

This is the purpose of movies—to tell our stories. To put a narrative to our lives that we can use as meaning, and as a backdrop.

In this way, even our taste for music and movies tends to reflect ourselves and our story without us even trying.

I spoke with a dog trainer who was a master at his craft. I asked him about what he found interesting about his profession, and what he told me I found fascinating.

He said, "the dog is always a reflection of the owner."

He and his partner detected marital abuse in a home, simply because there were two dogs, one owned by each spouse, who would constantly fight and attack each other.

If you listen to the wording, the acute language, the deeper story that is being shared, you can gain a window into someone's world.

But 99% of the time, these messages aren't heard—even if someone is explicitly telling you their problems, you often don't hear them.

You are stuck thinking in your head about what to say. Or you are hearing them at a superficial level. You are hearing information.

This isn't about reading minds—it's about hearing the true person underneath the masks and representations they feel as though they're portraying.

And so to pick up on the subtle message in a bottle is not a betrayal, it is an honoring of the true message.

It's an honoring of the true person.

It is receiving what needs to be heard.

And only then, can you respond accordingly.

Only then, can you say, "I see you."

And to be seen is the greatest gift on earth.
Xx David

Interpersonal Communication