Hear the meaning within the word
I’ve loved this quote for years, but never really bothered finding out the history behind it. On the Internet–which could never, ever be wrong–it’s commonly cited as coming from Shakespeare, but no one can find the exact source for it. Of course, Shakespeare carries his own credibility issue as to whether he wrote some or all of the works attributed to him, but I’m not going to even attempt to untangle that.
I like the quote because it asks us to not take things at face value, but, rather, to attempt to understand completely what is meant by the words that are spoken. I think this–this hearing–is easier in face-to-face conversations than in any other form of communication, largely because so much of communication is nonverbal. It’s in our facial expressions, our body language, the tone of our voice, etc. While phone conversations allow speakers and listeners to focus on vocal tone, much of communication today is completely divorced from any indicator of the speaker’s full intent, because much of it occurs online, where we are required to guess as to the speaker/writer’s intent. I’ve been the victim of something I have written being interpreted in a manner wholly different from my intent–and I know that I have been guilty of that, as well. I guess it’s part of why I am a bit wordy on the Internet–it helps ensure that my listener/reader understands my words as I intended them to be understood.