I have somewhat of an unusual name and with unusual names comes unusual spelling.
Having an uncommon name requires one to become quite accustomed to mispronunciation and I long ago ceased correcting people who routinely change my name.
I have lost count of the number of times Rael – pronounced our RAIL – has been changed to Real, RIEL, REIL, ROLL, or RAUL, or RUAL, and even, remarkably, to RAPHAEL.
I have never been offended by these creative variations of my name but I have long been amazed by how infrequently one of the important lessons I learned as a young child has not been widely imparted to many people.
The lesson I am referring to is the one that teaches us to always repeat a name when heard for the first time for in listening to and practicing the art of hearing a person state their own name lies the secret of how we should pronounce the name.
Mine is not the only name to which poetic license is freely granted.
I am constantly surprised at how often I have heard a person introduce himself as William only to be called Bill, David to be called Dave, Frederick to become Fred and so on.
Along with an unusual name comes unusual spelling and so many years ago I developed the habit of always spelling my name when providing it over the phone as in the case of leaving a message.
It astounds me how common it seems for people to be seemingly incapable of hearing what they have just listened to.
I routinely spell my name for them – R A E L – only to hear them repeating it to themselves as R E A L or R I E L or some other variation of what I have just said.
With a last name of Kalley one quickly becomes accustomed to hearing it, and seeing it, converted to Kelly.
It is quite frequent for me to receive mail addressed to Real Kelly.
My point in addressing this matter has nothing to do with the frequently misspelling of my name but rather by how poorly many of the people we interact with actually listen to what is being said.
Several years ago I was watching a screaming five or six year old being admonished by his mother in a store. She was becoming more and more frustrated by his seeming unwillingness to pay any attention to what she was saying and finally, in exasperation, she issued her final ultimatum/threat followed by this question, “Are you listening to me?”
A grandmotherly type watching from across the aisle gently answered this question for the mother. She said, “Dear, he is listening to you, he’s just not hearing you.”
It seems I have, on more and more frequent occasions, been surprised at the seeming failure or inability of people I have interacted with to hear what is being said to them.
To not just listen, but to hear.
I recently joined three friends for breakfast at a local restaurant.
When the server arrived to take our order, the first person told her what he would like and added, “I’d like the eggs over easy, please.” The server made a note on her order pad. The second person looked up at the server and said, “Same for me.” The server nodded and made a further note. The third person also said, “Same for me” and again the server nodded and added more information on her order pad. The fourth person clearly stated, “I would like my eggs sunny-side up, please.”
As before, the server nodded and made a note.
When the meals arrived of us received identical offerings. When my one colleague pointed out that he had specifically requested eggs to be cooked sunny-side up the server shook her head, told him he was wrong and pointed to her order pad to prove her point.
There are some battles simply not worth fighting and we ate our breakfasts and left.
I don’t know if the frequency of listening but not hearing is due to a lack of interest, being overwhelmed by too many competing stimuli or simply a function of really poor training,but its frequency seems to be on the rise.
I certainly cannot lay claim to always paying close and careful attention to what is being said to me. My long-suffering wife, Gimalle will tell you I never hear a word she says and reminds me that if interrupting was an Olympic event, I would have a drawer full of gold medals.
I have frequently explained to her that my reason for interrupting is simply because what I have to say is far more interesting but she doesn’t quite seem to get it.
Listening, but not hearing denies all of us so many opportunities while at the same time can so easily lead to an increased number of stress-causing events we then have to deal with.
If there is a secret to both listening and hearing, it is this: Focus all of your attention on the person addressing you and not on anything, or anyone else.
After all, that is the polite thing to do.
It won’t take long – just a little practice – before you too will spell my name R A E L.
Till we read again.