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Sun May 26, 2013, 06:16 AM

Has anyone else noticed that "listen" is often used as a synonym for "obey"?


I've lost track of the number of times I've heard people saying things like "we've tried to talk to them time and again, but they just won't listen!", when what they actually mean is "but they still won't do what we want!".

Listening is a very modest demand, so presenting it as being all you're asking is a good rhetorical trick. But if it really is all you're asking, then don't be surprised if, having listened, the people you're talking to still don't change their minds. And if it isn't, why not say so outright?

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Reply Has anyone else noticed that "listen" is often used as a synonym for "obey"? (Original post)
Donald Ian Rankin May 2013 OP
southernyankeebelle May 2013 #1
WinkyDink May 2013 #2
Quantess May 2013 #3
gtar100 May 2013 #4
rucky May 2013 #5
bunnies May 2013 #13
Posteritatis May 2013 #6
Donald Ian Rankin May 2013 #7
NYC Liberal May 2013 #15
Quantess May 2013 #19
unblock May 2013 #8
Pmc1962 May 2013 #9
alphafemale May 2013 #16
John1956PA May 2013 #10
HappyMe May 2013 #11
savebigbird May 2013 #12
Renew Deal May 2013 #14
Igel May 2013 #17
LittleBlue May 2013 #18

Response to Donald Ian Rankin (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2013, 06:57 AM

1. I've heard them saying "listen" and never that about it. But your right. I will notice

 

that from now on. It does make sense.

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Response to Donald Ian Rankin (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2013, 07:01 AM

2. Speaking as a teacher, I think I know where this might have started...... Heh.

 

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Response to Donald Ian Rankin (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2013, 07:03 AM

3. listenlistenlistenlistenlist enlist

enlist

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Response to Donald Ian Rankin (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2013, 07:03 AM

4. Astute observation. I've never thought about it like that but

it makes perfect sense in just about every case I recall. It's a very subtle manipulation.

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Response to Donald Ian Rankin (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2013, 07:09 AM

5. In that context, I usually associate "listen" with "acknowledge"

We've all had productive disagreements with people, and plenty more frustrating experiences when you may as well be speaking to a brick wall. It depends on what you expect to get out of the communication, I suppose - that goes for both communicating and listening/reacting.

Listening implies that person is at least trying to understand where you're coming from - or at least that's how it should be. But you're right, too many people communicate (talk and listen) with a "my way or the highway" type of agenda.

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Response to rucky (Reply #5)

Sun May 26, 2013, 08:57 AM

13. Exactly.

 

When I ask someone to listen, I'm asking them to hear me and acknowledge what Im saying. Not obey me.

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Response to Donald Ian Rankin (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2013, 07:13 AM

6. "Just don't understand" is often used the same way. (nt)

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Response to Posteritatis (Reply #6)

Sun May 26, 2013, 07:17 AM

7. Yes, absolutely. But at least that one's slightly more honest.

In that the speaker really does think the person they're describing doesn't understand, whereas people who say they want to be listened to usually actually want something else too.

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Response to Posteritatis (Reply #6)

Sun May 26, 2013, 09:16 AM

15. That's one I REALLY hate.

When I'm having a debate/discussion with someone and they tell me "No you don't understand what I'm saying..." Actually, I understand perfectly what you're saying; I just disagree with you. It's incredibly patronizing.

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Response to NYC Liberal (Reply #15)

Sun May 26, 2013, 05:32 PM

19. I'm going to let you in on a customer service secret that I learned

from a major, international, electronic device corporation...

When someone tells you something, repeat back to them what they just said to you.

They will say about you, "this person really listened to me."

I know, I know, it sounds redundant. I personally do not need to hear a recap of what I just said to someone to make me believe that they listened to what I just said. However, there is a surprisingly large percentage of the population who need you to repeat back to them what they had just said before they acknowledge that you "listened to them".

Edit to add:

This is good advice for anyone who deals with people who just won't stop complaining no matter how much you help them. Oh yeah, that's another thing-- after you have repeated back what they said to you (their complaint or request or whatever) and you went ahead and did something, MAKE SURE TO TELL THEM what you did in order to solve their issue, possibly two times for good measure, and also repeat back to them the entire scenario about why they called to complain, what you did to solve their issue, and is there anything else? About 15% to 20% of the population needs that much verbal response from the listener before they believe that you actually listened to what they had to say.

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Response to Donald Ian Rankin (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2013, 07:36 AM

8. listen and obey are often conflated because people usually don't answer requests properly

the ideal response to a request you don't intend to obey is to acknowledge the request first before then explaining why you disagree or refuse to obey.

this breaks up the "listen" and "obey" into two parts and makes clear that you did listen but disagree regarding the obey part.


then again, if over time a stubborn refusal to comply with requests emerges, then again, people often do say "he doesn't listen" even if the above technique is used. this is common with stubborn ceos, who may often say they appreciate input yet for some reason that input never seems to change their minds....

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Response to Donald Ian Rankin (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2013, 08:18 AM

9. You're not listening, Mom!

When my kids would accuse me of not listening to them, when they weren't getting their way, I would say " I am listening to you. I am just not agreeing with you."

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Response to Pmc1962 (Reply #9)

Sun May 26, 2013, 09:33 AM

16. Exactly. Sometimes you have to be hated for awhile to be a good parent.

tromptromptromp down the hall....door. SLAM!!!

You think that hurt my feelings.



I...almost...miss having teens.

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Response to Donald Ian Rankin (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2013, 08:33 AM

10. "Listen" has more phonetic force than "obey."

The tongue and lips movements required to command someone to "Listen!" give the speaker a more satisfying release of frustration than do the tongue and lip mechanics used to admonish the listener to "Obey!"

Also, I think the sibilant "s" sound has a relatively forceful impact on the listener's ears.

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Response to Donald Ian Rankin (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2013, 08:40 AM

11. An excellent observation.



It's pretty weak. Designed to make those that won't "listen" seem unreasonable, when in fact those that demand that people "listen" are unreasonable.

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Response to Donald Ian Rankin (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2013, 08:51 AM

12. I hear a lot of people demanding that certain others listen,

when they clearly mean "accept" or "agree."

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Response to Donald Ian Rankin (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2013, 09:15 AM

14. Open your ears and shut your mouth

Better?

You're right of course.

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Response to Donald Ian Rankin (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2013, 01:19 PM

17. The "problem" is what language is.

It isn't a set of abstract logical propositions that are strictly compositional and based on a pre-issued set of tokens with inflexible semantic properties.

It's used by humans. They make assumptions. They use context. They expect inferences to be made. They have a whole set of constraints, most culturally conditioned, that they expect to be followed. And they're free to change the meanings, as a group. Once the avalance has started the pebbles don't get a vote. You're a pebble trying to cast a vote. Sorry.

"Listen" means a bunch of things. It's different from "hear" in that "listen" presupposes some sort of intent and goal. I can hear music or I can listen to music. One's passive. The other shows some sort of engagement.

"Are you listening to me?" isn't the same as "Do you hear me?" One asks for ability; the other is asking about engagement.

If you're talking to somebody with less authority than you and they hear what you're telling them to do, the only reason that they're not doing what you're saying is that they're not paying attention, they're not engaged. To hear and be engaged is to obey when you're told to do something.

There's no change in there. That's been the case since before I was born. I'm in my mid-50s. You can find instances of that going back before 1900. It's just pragmatic inferencing. You may not draw the inferences, you may not like the inferences, but a lot of people draw them and many people expect you to draw them as well.

However, it's been used to many times for so many decades to ask about why somebody's not obeying that it is quite probably, to be honest, shifting meanings. Just like "starve" no longer means to "die" and "control" no longer means just "to monitor or observe", so "listen" now means to "hear attentively" and in a secondary sense means "listen and do as told." Kids have applied the abductive logic that drives language change and have assumed, with sufficient evidence, that one of the word's meaning is "to obey." They've botched the inferencing.

So kids now say, "But you're not listening," forgetting as teens have done for the last 60 years that they have no authority that would entail their parents' (or others') obedience.

"Understand" is the same. If you wield authority then the only reason that a subordinate wouldn't carry out your orders--apart from not paying attention--is not understanding. This, of course, was an inference lost by the '70s when everything was understanding and feeling and logic/reason were down played by all "right thinking" folk.

People are masters of their language until they get stuck on a point. Then they become primarily messers.

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Response to Donald Ian Rankin (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2013, 01:52 PM

18. Agreed. Another is "you don't understand"

 

Some of us do understand, but find your position unconvincing.

People need to just accept that their arguments will not persuade anyone, or even be persuasive at all.

Another is "show" or "educate" being used synonymously for the words "persuade". They do not mean the same thing, as often the person making the argument is restating a position that the listener has already considered.

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