Look at What is Being Said, Not Who is Saying It – Imam Ali

What is being said

look at what is being said meaning, meaning of quote, Imam Ali quote

Look at what is being said, not who is saying it

Look at What is Being Said, Not Who is Saying It

– Imam Ali

This is not always the easiest one – to look at life in a completely objective way. In fact sometimes the very purpose of listening to something being said is because of the person saying it. It depends strongly on my feelings about the person – If I like him/her, I would listen intently to what they are saying and then think genuinely about it. If it is a person I don’t care much for, then the tendency is to ignore and shut them off from the conversation or maybe just pretend nodding my head just to ensure that I am not being rude.

But then, there is always that tiny bit of bias in it. For a long time, I have consciously ignored when I was talking to a person who I did not have a great rapport with. I didn’t even see if what they were saying made sense or not. As I moved along, I realised that the tendency was to be surrounded by a bunch of yes men who would very rarely counter me lest that I start treating them the same way and neglect what they said. Instead, they realised it was lesser effort to end the conversation sooner than not being appreciated for their honest thoughts. So, it kinda started being a double edged sword resulting in minimal gain for me.

What is being said – Active Listening

I think there is something very strong about active listening. The idea of objectivity says that it is incredibly foolish to ignore something just because of my predisposed emotions about the person saying it. If I were to go by that, I would be a blind follower of the people I like, with limited attention to my own thoughts even. This is one reason to actually talk to people who oppose us –

  1. It gives us an opportunity to reassess what our thoughts are. The act of defending our thoughts makes us realise how strongly we feel about them
  2. It gives us an opportunity to objectively think about these thoughts and take a better informed decision about them. Although there is a slight negative bias, it atleast is good feedback when people give us a different news than expected.


What is being said: The Comfort Zone

But life would certainly be easier if we just stick to our comfort zone and avoid the uneasy conversations. That is a simple thing to do, but of course at a consequence and the cost of losing out on our long term objectives. Sometimes, I guess it just boils down to the long term approach and the sacrifice of the short term unease to get there. And for that to happen, we might have to sacrifice a bit of our ego, open ourselves a little bit more, intently listen to everything we say and finally take a decision as to what to do about it.

In other words, the idea is to focus really on what is being said rather than being completely biased by the face associated with the words. Sometimes, all we need is a fair and reasonable opinion.

These were our thoughts on the quote – Listen to what is being said than who is saying it. But please do share us your views, we would love to look at a different dimension to understand the true meaning of the quote and your thoughts on it will be invaluable for that.

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  1. Associating a face with the words can change the meaning sometimes. It often happens in the political arena. It’s not easy to concentrate merely on the words. Quotes like this one point it out clearly that we have so many flawed traits….

    • Very true Maniparna, I have constantly made that error. I mean it is a very natural thing for us to listen to people we like and push away the ones we don’t have a strong feeling for. It is amazing what we can get if we look at things with sheer objectivity, it can make a huge difference and wake up a critical aspect in us.

  2. Makes sense Vinay….this has very strong implications in a workplace also. You tend to listen to those who you think are in your “team”, else you conveniently ignore even the good ideas coming your way. There is one more dimension to listening. Stick to listening. Do not add “I thought you meant this when you said that”.

    • Thank you Deepali, I think the work place implications are amazing and most relevant because that is something we experience on a regular basis. In our MBA, the first few sessions taught about the ladder of inference where we actually make a few assumptions because of the person saying it than the content. It is a difficult thing to separate the person from the content, but the moment we start doing it consciously, it can make a huge difference in our approach and also our own peace of mind 🙂

    • Thank you Savithri, I really like these quotes which make us think and reflect. It is kinda one of the reasons why we started the site, to understand what they can really mean to us and give us more value and return in the end. Happy to hear from you, would love to see and exchange more with you in the coming days 🙂