What you said, what they heard

One day back back in December, 2015 — about ninety minutes before I went to the ER — I was eating lunch with some other people, and as I was trying to eat I suddenly realized that I was having a hard time swallowing. It was like someone shot my throat full of novocaine, and I couldn’t feel my neck/throat muscles to swallow, or they were otherwise paralyzed so I couldn’t swallow.

I had been having a lot of other bizarre symptoms at the time, so I didn’t do anything immediately, other than stop eating. (I was with my nieces and I didn’t want to scare them.) I got up from the table, took a shower, realized that the symptoms felt like they were getting worse, then went out to the living room and told everyone I needed to go to the hospital. I explained the part about my throat going numb and how I didn’t feel like I could swallow my food.

As I write this blog entry it’s now early July, 2016, and a few days ago I was talking to someone who was there at the time. She said, “Do you remember back in December how you thought your throat was closing, yada yada yada.” When she said this it occurred to me that she heard what she wanted to hear, or what was easy to remember. What she heard is that I had an allergic reaction, and that I said my throat was closing. But that’s not what I said. What I said is what I wrote in the first paragraph here, that it felt like my throat was paralyzed, that it felt like it had been shot with novocaine.

So that’s my first point:

People hear what they want to hear, or what’s convenient for them to hear, not what you say.

False stories live on

The second part of this story is that when she said this on the phone, I didn’t bother to correct her. We were talking about something else, and this struck me as a trivial point. If that’s what she heard, fine, it doesn’t matter.

Then today I realized that if I die, or if for some reason she had to go with me to see a doctor and I couldn’t talk, she would tell her version of the story, and I would have to correct her. But if I couldn’t communicate (or I was dead), her version of the story would live on forever.

Again, this is a trivial matter for a trivial story, but it made me wonder how many other stories that have been told throughout time have lived on, and they just aren’t true. Someone purportedly reports the facts, but their “facts” are wrong.

I’m not sure exactly what my second point is ... other than to say that when people hear what they want to hear, and they then go on to communicate that to other people, they’re essentially spreading mis-truths. I want to call them “lies,” but the person telling the story doesn’t consciously mean to spread a lie, they’re just saying what they saw or heard, and what they saw or heard is colored by their own perceptions and misconceptions.