“I Hear You”

I’ve noticed there’s a new phrase that, seemingly overnight, has become a staple in virtually every conversation, from simple chit-chat to multi-party business videoconferences.

The phrase is “I hear you.” It is used when one participant in a conversation is responding to an observation or argument that another party to the conversation has just made. The responses now often begin with “I hear you.” The responder might then proceed to agree and raise an additional point or gloss on what was just said, or amplify the point in some way, or follow “I hear you” with “but” and some form of disagreement. But the responder wants to make sure that the first speaker knows that his or her statements has been understood and assimilated, and they aren’t just people talking across each other. The “I hear you” statement is a way to get that point across. (And in a world of sometimes glitchy and frozen video connections, “I hear you” may also signal that you’re not experiencing technical difficulties, too.)

I’ve been interested in the spread of “I hear you,” and I wonder if linguists are, even now, tracing the use of the phrase back to its roots. I think the use of the phrase is a way of showing verbal respect and acknowledgement, even if the phrase might be followed by disagreement. It’s a form of polite, sensitive behavior that is an outgrowth of the desire to make sure that everyone is being heard and their views are being respected. I wonder if “I hear you” might soon become a basic building block of manners in the modern world, as common as “please” and “thank you.”

The B And B Experience

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Kish and I are staying at a very nice bed and breakfast here in Jacksonville. It’s a bright, cheerful place — the sun-splashed solarium where we’ve had breakfast, by itself, makes you happy to greet the new day — that is run by a friendly couple and is very conveniently located near Richard’s apartment.

We’re normally hotel people (and the older and grander the hotel, the better), but it’s nice to mix in the B and B experience every once in a while. The people who run B and Bs typically are eager to please, and when you have a hostess or host who’s a good cook — which is the case here in Jacksonville, with fresh-baked breads, hot egg dishes, and fresh fruit every morning, along with good, hot coffee — it’s icing on the cake.

One other aspect of the B and B experience is worth keeping in mind: You might be seated at breakfast with other guests. If you’re a grump in the morning, that might be a downside, but it’s something we find kind of refreshing. It’s a chance to haul out those often-rusty social conversation skills, make pleasant small talk, and learn something interesting about people who hail from another neck of the woods. Unless you’re somebody who regularly goes to dinner parties with people you don’t know, how often do you have an opportunity to exercise your chit-chat capabilities? And having a nice meal with complete strangers makes the world seem like a friendlier place.