He Said/She Said – Stop Assuming

Our roof had hail damage. Our contractor was calling our insurance agent to report it. I listened in as he talked to her.

She: How do you spell that last name?

He: B-U-R-G-E-S-S.

She: You gave me B-U-G-E-S-S.

He: No. B-U-R-G-E-S-S.

She: Okay. You gave me . . .

Over and over. After each of his responses, she’d answer with “You gave me . . .”

It troubled me.

What she heard wasn’t necessarily what he gave.

She was mistaken.


Assuming Too Much?

How many times do we do this to each other? You said. No, that’s not what I said.

When we don’t hear what others are saying—but think we do!—everyone gets frustrated.

Miscommunications cause unnecessary conflict.

  • Feelings get hurt.
  • People are offended.
  • Relationships are damaged.

What if instead of saying,You said . . .”, we asked, Did I hear you say . . . ?

It leaves room for dialogue, for confirmation, or for correction as needed. With no walls coming up. No defensive posturing. No confrontational feelings aroused.

What we hear isn’t always what was said.
And what we say isn’t always what is received.

Let’s stop assuming we hear each other right, and instead dialogue about it.

  • With a humble spirit.
  • A teachable spirit.
  • A gentle spirit.

Our contractor finally convinced our insurance agent how to spell our name and policy number and date of the roof damage. But it took a long time and made us all uncomfortable.

How quicker and more pleasant it could have been if she had just asked if she had it right each time instead of incorrectly accusing him of giving her false data.

Listening to each other with humility is a gift.

May we each grow in it giving it more and more.

* * *

Do you assume you heard it right the first time? Or is listening a skill you’re still growing in? Please share in the comments.


24 thoughts on “He Said/She Said – Stop Assuming

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Listening is truly a gift; you’re right, Brooke. It’s a gift I can be stingy with if I’m in the middle of something, but I need to remember that people always matter more than anything else.

  1. Barbara H.

    I don’t know why we tend to get defensive and accuse the other person of making as mistake, as if we’re not capable of one, though we know we make mistakes right and left. I’ve been humbled a couple of times when I was *sure* I was right – embarrassing I like your “Did I hear you say..?” Or sometimes I just repeat what I think they said and ask, “Did I get that right?”

    I’ve heard this quote attributed to a number of different people, but it’s so true: “I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” Even as long as my husband and I have been married, and as often as we can finish each other’s sentences, there are times we can tell by how the other responds that they took what we said in a way we didn’t mean it, or thought we were getting at something when we were just making a statement at face value. How we all need humility and grace in our dealings with each other.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      That’s a great quote, Barbara. Thanks for sharing it here. Truth. I definitely have to constantly work on being humble when I think I am “right.” Including not looking things up to PROVE I was right about something. Let it go.

  2. Heather

    Guilty hand raise over here… I thought I was a good listener until just recently! It takes great humility and effort to defer to the other person and we’re so quick to defend when we feel we’re not being heard as well. Love your new response: “Did I hear you say…?” Sometimes I feel like all the connection of this age leads to a disconnect of how to communicate humbly and tactfully but it all starts with listening. Thanks Lisa! ♥

  3. floyd

    Oh man… I can’t help but think that insurance companies are trained to be negative and confrontational right from the get go. If someone’s filing a claim it’s less profit, and I have a fair amount of experience to draw from.

    That said, in all of life, like you mentioned, listening is an act of humility. It shows real interest in someone else. We all have people that we’ve ran across in our lives that aren’t listening, they’re merely waiting for you to finish so they can hear themselves talk… I’ll take this as a reminder!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Well, I wasn’t intentionally going there about the insurance companies, but you’re free to draw your own conclusions from your own experiences. 🙂 Yeah, listening is a skill you’d think we all would have developed well by this stage in life, but there’s still a lot more interest in talking than listening. Just more proof that self-centeredness runs deep.

  4. Bill (cycleguy)

    Hi Lisa! I started replying early this morning and then got interrupted and had to leave the office. Assumptions are evil. 🙂 One of the characters in a Steven Seagal movie says, “Assumption is the mother of all *mess* ups.” (Real comment changed). he is right. It sounds to me like the receptionist was trying to do just what you are saying. Get it right!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      If assumptions are evil, can we add that so are interruptions? 🙂 I have to remind myself NOT to make so many assumptions about people’s motives, too. Who knows a heart but the Lord? If I am going to assume, may I assume the best of people I love.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Isn’t it funny how God will bring those practical examples to the forefront sometimes when we’re least looking for them? Thanks for stopping by, Steffanie.

  5. Valerie Sisco

    Hi Lisa,
    I think we were on the same wavelength this week with our posts about humility! Oh how miscommunication does cause conflict and discord. Even our tones (something I struggle with) can sound harsher than we intend. I love what you said about praying for a humble and gentle spirit. I certainly need these words today! 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, even our tones. It would probably serve me well to hear a recording of my tone because I’m just certain I don’t sound bad at times…but if I were to really hear myself, I’d probably disagree. I loved your post on humility—we do have to get over ourselves, thinking we’re always right, to be humble.

  6. June

    “What we hear isn’t always what was said.” So true, Lisa! It’s about perspective again, isn’t it? Our eyes and ears, and certainly our mouths! are often conditioned by our past, our own agenda, our pride, etc. We need to strip away some preconceived notions and learned behaviors and listen and see with open hearts and minds. We {I} think we know so much! Yet in truth, we have so much to learn. God’s humbling us, I think. For such a time that is coming. May we be obedient to His wisdom and His will. Thank you, friend. You are a light shining brightly.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I suspect your words are prophetic, June. I do believe God wants us to be much more humble than we are. It’s a hard, slow lesson to learn (and oftentimes painful). But if we truly want to love each other as he loves us, we need to learn it. I know I have a long way to go in releasing my pride, but the first step is recognizing that I need to do it, right? Thinking I already know it all (including thinking I know exactly what people mean the first time they explain something to me) is definitely a sign of my pride. Have a blessed Sunday, friend!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’re so right, Lyli. It does take effort on our part to get on the same page. Sometimes I want to give that effort; sometimes I get lazy. But it’s always worth it!

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