What I hear you saying

Thomas Tompion

Senior Member
English - England
Moderator note: The first two posts of this thread have been split from another thread on a related but distinct topic. The context for that thread is reproduced here:



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Interpreting is used to explain cause-and-effect relationships and clarify implications, and requires you to draw a conclusion about another person's perception of a situation or event and provides a basis for publicly testing any assumptions made during a conversation. Thus, it allows you the opportunity to verify your own point of view and acknowledge the correctness of your interpretation. Common statements such as "What I hear you saying ..." and "Based upon what you have said..." can be used to introduce your interpretations.
I don't think "What I hear you saying..." is acceptable in any sort of polite context. If you wish to provoke someone, or insult them, then that's another matter. I'd put it in the same category as "What I think you are saying...", with its suggestion that you know more about what the person wants to say than he does himself.

"Based upon what you are saying..." is much more acceptable, as would be "it follows from what you are saying, that....", the formula I would naturally use.
 
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  • Nunty

    Modified
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    "What I hear you saying" is a very commonly used phrase in psychotherapy and counseling situations, as well as in conflict resolution techniques.
     
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    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    I can't say I've ever come across What I hear you saying ... which doesn't convey anything in particular to me.

    (I'm not exactly sure what this thread is about:()
     

    Nunty

    Modified
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    "I can't take it any more. If he uses my stapler one more time without asking permission, I'll punch his lights out."

    "Which part makes you angrier, the fact that he doesn't ask permission, or that he uses your stapler at all?"

    "He has no right to touch my things! That is my personal stapler. It's a special left-handed one that I bought with my own money! He needs to keep his hands off my stuff!"

    "OK, so what I hear you saying is that this stapler is very important to you because it is your personal property."

    "Yes!"

    ========
    That is one example of how the phrase might be used.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    There appear to be many impolite contexts, if TT is correct in his assertion:

    Results 1 - 20 of about 5,650,000 for "what I hear you saying"


    This web page about "Reflective listening", whatever that may be, suggests it, along with a few other expressions:
    http://www.huntel.net/rsweetland/cman/verbal/refllistng.html

    Correct me if I’m wrong. …

    Let me see if I understand. You …

    From your point of view

    In your experience

    What I hear you saying

    I’m picking up that you

    I really hear you saying that
     
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    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think we should remember that many people use words very inaccurately. This fact may condition people to accepting as polite the suggestion that they are incapable of expressing themselves clearly. I couldn't bring myself to suggest such a thing, or anything like it. I don't think I'm naturally more polite that the norm.
     

    Nunty

    Modified
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    I also do not think you are naturally more polite than the norm.

    I do think you may be unaware of this particular usage, which is far from rare and far from insulting. It is not saying "This is what you really meant to say but are incapable of expressing", but rather, "This is what I understood. Is it accurate or am I mistaken?"
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I also do not think you are naturally more polite than the norm.

    I do think you may be unaware of this particular usage, which is far from rare and far from insulting. It is not saying "This is what you really meant to say but are incapable of expressing", but rather, "This is what I understood. Is it accurate or am I mistaken?"
    Thank you for that, Nunty. It's good to agree.

    I can see that this has become the standard interpretation of the words in the code, but the words themselves in a language where they have not yet been encoded, are more impolite that I could bring myself to be. I hope you hear what I am saying - that's it, the suggestion that though you hear, you haven't the nous to understand.

    They have the same ring, for me, as that terrible expression - I hear what you are saying - in fact, I strongly suspect they are derived from it. That's something else I wouldn't say to someone without expecting him or her, rightly, to take offense.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    (I'm not exactly sure what this thread is about:()
    Me neither:confused:

    TT says he finds a certain phrase problematical; cuchu and Nunty say it's used in particular contexts.

    In other words, we have another example here of the importance of context. End of subject, no?
     

    Nunty

    Modified
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    I can't say I've ever come across What I hear you saying ... which doesn't convey anything in particular to me.

    (I'm not exactly sure what this thread is about:()
    Me neither:confused:

    TT says he finds a certain phrase problematical; cuchu and Nunty say it's used in particular contexts.

    In other words, we have another example here of the importance of context. End of subject, no?
    The thread is about the meaning of the phrase "what I hear you saying".

    TT did not say that he finds the phrase "problematical". He unequivocally stated that it is provoking and insulting (post #1), an inaccurate use of words (post #7), and impolite (post #9).

    I am quite sure that TT does not intend to sound prim and prissy, but this apparent reluctance to accept that language is living and dynamic, and that the meaning of words and phrases can change from time to time and from place to place strikes me as very strange coming from someone so knowledgable and skilled with words.

    Cuchu and I both speak AE and do not find the phrase remarkable. Loob, ewie and TT speak BE and are unfamiliar with the idiom. Would it not make far more sense to suggest a regional difference in usage rather such wholesale condemnation of a phrase one is meeting for the first time? I suggest that it would.

    Your mileage may differ. (*)


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    (*) An Americanism meaning, "This is my opinion, but yours may be different. Both are valid."
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I understand "what I hear you saying" to mean "this is my interpretation of the subtextual meaning of your words." It is much more about my understanding of the full meaning of what you said, rather than what you actually said.

    The press spokesman announced that the diplomats had a "frank exchange of opinions." What I heard him saying was that the ambassadors disagreed violently and left the room angrier than they came in.

    I do not find this at all insulting, as it can easily be corrected by the original speaker, who might say "no, I did not mean that at all." When it comes to the jargon of conflict resolution, I will save my ire for the oblivious rudeness, stupidity, and offensiveness of the phrase "I'm sorry you feel that way"... :D
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I'm not certain that the difference is entirely regional. It depends on the tone in which it is said and the touchiness of the listener. At times "what I hear you saying" followed by a paraphrase of the original can be heard as very patronizing, even by a speaker of AE.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    [...]I am quite sure that TT does not intend to sound prim and prissy, but this apparent reluctance to accept that language is living and dynamic, and that the meaning of words and phrases can change from time to time and from place to place strikes me as very strange coming from someone so knowledgable and skilled with words.
    Don't be too sure, Nunty. I am not in the least reluctant to accept the things you mention, and far from deploring them, I often enjoy new expressions. My students' use of language was a frequent source of joy and enlightenment to me.

    It's not difficult for someone to see that there is a strong BE/AE divide over this form of words. You find it quite acceptable. I'm not criticising your point of view, but registering that for me, as a BE speaker, they would be offensive, until I came to appreciate, and had become familiar with, the encoded meaning. Rather like those people who say I'm very well thank you when you say How do you do? to them, I'd take the words at face value because I was unfamiliar with the code.
     
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    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    On the colonial side of the puddle, I think it may be of interest to someone, my dog perhaps, to note that I find the expression in the thread topic just fine and dandy in the "psychotherapy and counseling situations" Nunty mentioned in post #2. Outside of those contexts, I would find it strange, strained, a little bit phoney. As I am neither a psychoanalyst nor a counselor, other than to the aforementioned pooch, I don't use the expression.

    That's not a condemnation of it; it's a stylistic choice. If I want to confirm that my understanding of something and the speaker's intention are aligned, I ask, "Am I wrong in understanding you to mean XXXXXX and Yyyyyyyyyyyy?" or "Do you mean by that that biddledeeboobop tangerine?"

    ____________________
    He constructed a vast labyrinthine of periods, made impassable by the piling-up of clauses upon clauses--clauses in which oversight and bad grammar seemed manifestations of disdain. — Jorge Luis Borges
     
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