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Hearing what isn’t said

Drucker said, “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”

I tweeted Drucker’s quote and recieved this question. “How can I hear what isn’t said?” Great question!


Three ways to hear what isn’t said

Hear intent.

Some are skilled at speaking in ways that sound innocent or helpful when they are actually selfish and unhelpful. They use quiet tones and cover their intent with compliments. Frequently they flatter. However, if you wait for the smoke to clear you’ll see they are protecting their own turf, passing the buck, or blaming others.

Hear assumptions.

Every statement or question stands on an assumption. For example, I hear statements built on the assumption that I’m responsible to fix something when I’m not. Or, you may hear accusations built on the assumption you were responsible for failure when you weren’t. Worse yet, you may hear organizational plans based on false assumptions from poor market research.

Hear non-verbals.

Is the person turned toward or away from you? Not long ago I was in a meeting where a person spoke to me while being turned toward someone else. What they said was for the benefit of another, not me. In addition, hear eye movement.


Don’t take words at face value. In my experience; manipulation, secret agendas, and wrong assumptions are common, frustrating, and distracting.

While working with forthright, honest individuals, wrong assumptions are the main issue. On the other hand, while working with dishonest people, manipulation and secret agendas magnify the difficulty of wrong assumptions.


Do you agree with Drucker’s quote?

How do you hear what isn’t said?

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