Selective Hearing

A while back I preached a message.  When it was over I felt a little bit drained, as many of us do after preaching.  A couple of people made comments about one aspect of the message which only added to my low feelings.  Obviously I had not communicated well.  Perhaps I had been out of balance in what I said.  It must have come out poorly.

So a couple of days later I got round to listening to the file, contemplating perhaps deleting some before putting the file online, or maybe choosing not to put it online at all.  When I listened to it, I was surprised to find that I had no desire to try to edit the file.  The message was good and I stood by it as being solidly biblical and accurate. So why the comments?

People will selectively hear what it said.  Now I am the first to point out that what they hear is what matters, not what the preacher meant to say.  But that is my point in this post.  The preacher needs to think through the message from the perspective of the listeners ahead of time and spot where they will selectively mishear.  Then the preacher can pre-empt this with a more overt form of communication.  Perhaps instead of just saying the right thing, the preacher should say the right thing, ask a clarifying question, and then answer it.  Perhaps the preacher should repeat, restate, underline, emphasize, clarify, etc.

If I had stopped to think ahead of time, I could have guessed both comments and both individuals who might make them.  I could have overcome the problem ahead of time.  Now I have a message that I am happy with, but they will probably never listen to the message again to check what I actually said, and the opportunity is lost.

Plan ahead and overcome the selective hearing that you probably know will happen!

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One thought on “Selective Hearing

  1. Peter,
    This is a really important concept for communication. Your advice seems to revolve around knowing your congregation and how they react – very sound advice. Do you have advice for thinking ahead of time how a message will be misheard when preaching to a new/unknown group?

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