We listen to what we want to hear

Growing up I had a reputation for being really good.  Because everyone believed I was really good, they would never believe I had done anything wrong.  Honest.  My eighth grade class elected me class delegate (this was Spain) simply because I could deliver the bad news and be the scape goat and I wouldn’t get in trouble for it because everyone believed I was good.  I got to explain all sorts of things that we had done and the teachers would go, yes, yes, I know, and I know you weren’t part of it.  (It only backfired once, when the teacher said she’d dock my grade unless I fessed up some names.  I lived with docked history grades for the rest of the year.)

So I knew intuitively that people hear what they already believe.  (We usually say they hear what they want to hear – but really they hear what they believe.) Seth Godin put it in writing much more clearly in All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World. Marketers can tell any story they like, but the only one you are going to hear is the one you already agreed with in the first place.  You hear you need that special cup of coffee because you are special and deserve it.  They didn’t have to convince you that you were special – they just reminded you of the fact.

I was tempted to send a copy of the book to an ex-friend who looked at me like I was an egotistical smartass when I told her I really liked The Business Plan for the Body because it made perfect sense – the book described weightloss just like I thought about weightloss.  Her response was "You liked it because you agreed with it?"  And I was like, "yes!"  And she decided I was full of myself.  But Seth Godin says we all only hear and like what we agree with.  And I knew that from all the way back in eighth grade – I just didn’t know how to explain it.