Do you hear what I hear?

April 1, 2011

I swing by the front desk to check out of the hotel, and am greeted with “Good morning - how did you sleep?” I reply “OK, but the train woke me up a few times while it changed cars.”

Her face changed as she shot me a questioning look. I quickly pick up on this and ask, “Is there a train around here, or was I hearing something that I thought was a train changing cars?”  Her face now comes alive as she realizes indeed that I was hearing the train out back. She points a thumb over her shoulder and then waves her hand forward as if saying “it’s out back but it’s no big deal.”

Stored and ignored

As I walk to the car, my mind goes back to a similar situation years ago when the train was mere feet from the back of the hotel (a handy piece of info they left out of the brochure). That night’s sleep was broken down into two-hour segments between trains. Having breakfast at a nearby diner the next morning, “the” train came up in conversation with a local. His nonchalant reply was “We don’t even hear it around here anymore.”

Wow! How in the heck could someone become so used to hearing something of that magnitude that they get to the point where they claim to no longer notice it? It still makes a very loud noise, and it rumbles everything within 100 feet of the tracks. How did he not hear it?

Have you ever been to the airport or fueling up your vehicle near one when jets are landing or taking off? You might start wondering, how do people live around here?  No doubt the locals will claim they don’t hear the noise anymore (and they’ve probably become used to seeing the “tilted head” look from those of us who don’t understand). So if it can happen to so many people, that after repeated exposure they can subconsciously block out all that noise, what might all of us be vulnerable to ignoring just because it’s so constant?

If all of these folks have become so accustomed to the local sounds that they are desensitized to them, what do you suppose their reaction would be if the pitch of the train horn changed, or if the shriek of the jet engine suddenly became a deep rumble? They would most certainly take notice because this sound is new.

Even though it is similar, it’s just different enough that it’s not in the memory bank, so there is no automatic defense, no firewall blocking it. The once-familiar sound now crashes right through, gaining almost instant recognition. Because of such a small but sudden change, their world seems a little bigger, and maybe a lot louder!

Changing the sound

Throughout our lives, we have all fallen victim to things like this; at some point our minds start shutting out familiar sounds, sights or events just because they’re so constant. A line has been drawn and no further admittance is allowed. Each of us seem to make it day-to-day without much thought about what we take for granted, whether it be advice, signs, sounds or even important events.

There is danger in allowing this to happen – we’re fooled into thinking all is well. Could it be that something we have needed to hear all along is the one thing we have taught ourselves to ignore? Obviously not hearing a train anymore is far more dangerous than being deaf to voices or advice, but the latter is still dangerous in the sales world, and in our personal lives too.

Asking you to stop and take heed of something you’re not aware of anymore might seem odd. It would be like asking you to go grab the tool I need out of the truck without me telling you what that tool is. But there must be a way of finding out (without hypnosis or a psychiatrist) if, over time, our minds have tuned out the important stuff.

It’s hard to say how, but a great place to start is by changing the pitch, tone or rumble of our own message so that it has a new approach and gains instant recognition. It will be through these changes that we create change in others!

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