Hearing vs. Listening


How would you describe the difference between the two? Yes, there is a difference!

Hearing is defined by the Collins Dictionary as “the faculty or sense by which sound is perceived”, whilst listening “the act of concentrating on hearing something”.
Unless you are hearing impaired, hearing is then the involuntary process of perceiving sound by the ear. It simply happens.

Listening on the other hand is a conscious act that requires concentration. It’s the process whereby our brain processes meaning via the various sounds that we hear.

Did you know that it was World Hearing Day earlier this month?

Would you be surprised to know that there isn’t a World Listening Day?
Personally I believe that a whole lot of people engage in their lives with the ‘hard of listening’ malady.

Think about our language for a moment “I hear you”. How often have you uttered those words to a partner, colleague or child in an offer to placate the situation, only to hear the words “But you’re not listening to me” come right back at you?

Think about the afternoon school run, driving home after a long day at the office with a babbling brook in the back of the car. How much do you recall of that child’s conversation by the time you walk through the front door? What about your colleague bemoaning the fact that they hate their job and just as soon as something vaguely interesting pops up, they’re outta there?

Listening is a skill that I believe we should all be taught. The skill is not only for executive coaching clients. Listening attentively cuts back the time in to-ing and fro-ing in a conversation. True listening makes the speaker feel acknowledged. I know that it is important for me to feel acknowledged. And you?

Some of the listening skills that I have learned over time:
1. Silence is a form of listening. Understand what the speaker is wanting from you, the listener. Sometimes it’s just about ‘vomiting a story’ and for the listener to hold the space of listening in silence.
2. Listening does not mean jumping in at the first pause to offer advice. Listening means taking in everything from body language, to emotions and words that the speaker is bringing to the conversation. Listening to both what is and what isn’t being said.
3. Be aware that as a listener you have filters, preconceptions, opinions and judgements – be mindful to put them aside as you listen.
4. Listen to understand and not react.
5. Ask clarifying questions.
6. Be fully present to the conversation.
7. Ask how your listening can support or help the speaker.

Consider those relationships in your life that could do with a healthy dose of listening. Commit to being present for 5 minutes and experience the difference.

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