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  • Writer's pictureMarty Jalove

Said, Heard, Meant, Felt

My wife asked me, “Does this dress make me look fat?”

That is what she SAID and that is what I HEARD. But what was she really asking? How was I supposed to answer this question? What did she really MEAN? And how will my answer make her FEEL?

This is how I started my presentation to a group of Doctors, Scientists, and Engineers at the ACSE, Association of Chinese-American Scientists and Engineers 28th Annual Conference.

The theme of this year’s conference was “New Normal Post COVID: Challenges and Opportunities.”

I was only one of a handful of inspiring speakers, including:

  • Dr. Wenhong Zhang - Director, Center for Infectious Disease at Huashan Hospital of Fudan University

  • Dr. Omar Lateef - President and CEO, Rush University Medical Center

  • Dr. Pan Zheng - Professor, Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland

  • Dr. David Chen, PhD - Principal Software Engineer, United Healthcare

  • Dr. Haiyan Huang - Head of Credit Risk, Prosper Marketplace

  • Saichang Xu, Esq. - Principal Attorney, Law Offices of Saichang Xu

  • Plus others

“New Normal” really sums it up.

There are a few people still asking. “When will we get back to normal?”

But we must come to the realization that this IS our NEW NORMAL. We will not be going back to “the way it was.” Mankind never does. We adapt to the challenges and opportunities put in front of us. The current and the future is, and always will be, a hybrid of what we have experienced and what we face. Evolution teaches us that we must change with the times in order to thrive and survive. We will evolve or dissolve.

So how do we adapt to this New Normal?

The world is moving faster and faster. We have access to unlimited information, and we demand everything instantaneously. Our attention span continues to shrink and the slightest slowdown or interruption in communication results in boredom, loss, or dismissal.

This article is probably going on too long to keep you interested. If so, feel free to jump to the last paragraph. You won’t hurt my feelings.

Now that the quickly-bored are gone, I want to congratulate the rest of you for successfully taking the first step towards adapting to the ever-changing, ever-hastening times that we find ourselves living in.

Just like our world, which is moving quicker and quicker, the messages that we share are shortening and speeding up.

  • Why read a book, when I can easily ready a summary?

  • Why read a summary, when I can quickly read a meme?

  • Why read at all, when I can scroll through videos?

  • Why talk to someone, when I can instantly text, “Sup?”

With all that we have gained in the quest for brevity, we have lost even more in the ability to really communicate. We have become a society of Talkers not Communicators. The art of conversation is disappearing.

This is why it is so important, more now than ever before, to pay attention to what people HEAR whenever we talk. We only have their attention for seconds. Make sure they receive your message correctly.

When on a ZOOM call, we always ask, “Can you HEAR me?”

Why don’t we ask that all of the time? Why not find out if our audience is really listening? Why not ask if they understood what we said?

If what I meant to say is important enough to say, then why not say it is a way that it is heard the way it was meant to be heard (too much Dr. Seuss in my life)?

When messages are shortened, meaning is lost. In order to survive and grow in our New Normal we will have to learn to slowdown. It will take practice and patience to rebuild our ability to communicate. We must put effort into the art of listening and understanding. We must not be afraid to ask for clarification. And we must not jump to conclusions without ample information.

When you speak, ask your audience if they understood what you SAID. Be sure that they comprehend what you MEANT.

When you listen, don’t assume, ask for clarification on what you HEARD. Don’t be afraid to express what you FELT.

And, when asked questions like, “Does this dress make me look fat?” learn that sometimes, you are better off not saying anything at all.

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