Stories and thoughts about family and life

The Charlie Brown Teacher

on November 16, 2012

It’s been funny the number of conversations I’ve had, just in the past couple of days, where one of my friends has compared herself to the “Charlie Brown Teacher.” In all the Peanuts cartoons, the poor teacher would ramble on “Wah wah. Wah wah wah wah,” and so on. Only the kids could understand her. To the rest of us, it was completely imperciptible except as just noise.
I think there likely isn’t a mom out there who hasn’t experienced this sensation–talking and talking and realizing that no one hears you. Repeating the chore list 10 times to children who act like they understand but then sometimes do the complete opposite of what you say. Having entire conversations with your husband, only to find out that all he got out of it was one sentence and that once sentence doesn’t make any sense to him.
I was so frustrated with being the Charlie Brown Teacher earlier this week that I quite literally exploded at my poor surprised family, declaring that if no one was going to listen to anything I had to say then perhaps I just shouldn’t communicate anymore. In the span of 20 minutes I had an interaction with each one of the males in my house which had me seriously questioning my ability to speak English, let alone relay competent instructions or details. After I calmed, my husband and I had a little chat about how irrelevent it makes a person feel to know that entire conversations can be had and only one participant recall any of the significant details.

So, I was thinking that it was just my family, until I had two separate interactions with a client yesterday which left me feeling much the same way. Our first conversation was a “refresher” of a conversation we had about six months ago, where I explained how some data had been gathered by one of our vendors. I had explained at the time how the situation occurred, and the clients response was that they wanted to review it further and to leave it alone for now. So I did. In our conversation yesterday, however, the client responded that he simply would never have told me that, regardless of my fairly detailed notes on the situation where I wrote down what he said. And all of that is fine–I quite possibly could have misunderstood. I chalked it up to that and this poor client having enough on his plate for five people, until our second interaction in two hours where he did the same thing again. The second conversation had to do with a fee structure conversation we had several months ago as well. I had explained the formula for calculating the particular fee and client responsibility for their portion of the fee. Again, I made notes of the conversation, and the client told me that was the first time he was hearing that information.

I thought about that when I was going home. I’ve used the same explanation with my kids before, and there really IS a difference between hearing and listening. We all hear a lot of things during the course of our day–the printer, the telephone, other conversations, traffic, the television, etc. To which things are we actually listening?

I’d like to say it’s just a male thing, and while it’s true that females can usually multi-task better, I know female friends who can’t hear anything beyond what they are engaged either. It’s funny the number of situations in just one week where I’ve been greeted with people who didn’t hear the same conversation I did.   I don’t guess Charlie’s teacher had any idea what an impact she would have on our society.  I wonder what the next generation will use as their example of that communication that isn’t understood?


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