One judge bragged he could look an attorney right in the eye the whole time the attorney was making an argument but never hear a word the lawyer said. In fact, that judge was just like the rest of us. Much of what we appear to hear may as well be a foreign language. We smile and nod but are totally unaffected by much of what others try to convince us. And, of course, we all know very little that we say to others has any hope of convincing them to truly agree with us, even as they nod their heads up and down. If you are married, you might feel the truth, and frustration, of this phenomenon.
It is not just the state of my ability to hear that prevents me, and probably you too, from comprehending what someone in a movie, on television or even someone right next to us in a noisy room is saying. Just as a traffic cop continues politely filling out your citation while he does not consider your reasonable explanation, most of us already have our minds made up about practically everything. Therefore, please do not attempt to confuse us with information on the subject at hand.
In many situations it is not our fault that new facts are irrelevant to our decisions. Take our hypothetical traffic cop for instance. He/she often has but a moment to observe some fleeting situation. He/she may have an ill child or a demanding spouse or be behind on his/her rent. What he/she does not have is the time or inclination to debate with you.
The same thing happens with judges. By the time a case gets to court the judge may have already read the file including briefs and depositions. The judge may have predetermined his/her decision and arguments in court are simply something that must be endured, not listened to. Trial judges often believe that is exactly how appellate court decisions are made.
Regardless of your circumstances, you may feel no one is hearing what you want to say. Actually, others may hear us but they just have their minds made up and the competing demands of our busy lives drive out our ability or desire to reevaluate our positions.
That may be why the same sermons get delivered at almost every religious service and why parents have to constantly admonish their children to do their homework. We hear but we do not listen. We see but we do not comprehend. The constant drumbeat of others attempting to confuse us with their thoughts eventually becomes just so much “sounding brass or tinkling cymbals”. 1 Corinthians 13:1.
So the next time you grab someone’s arm and ask intently, “Are you listening to me?”, you can almost certainly assume they are not. On the other hand, you can hope they will at least smile and politely nod in response.