Is there a difference between listening and hearing? You’re right, there is.
Let me preface this by saying I’m a happily married man. But when my wife asks me if I’m listening and I respond “I hear you,” what does that mean? Is it that I hear the noises coming out of her mouth or are the words actually being processed? I can admit that if it’s during a Bruins game, it’s not the latter!
The only similarity of hearing and listening is that both involve your ears. Hearing is a physical process that is natural and passive. By definition, it is the act of perceiving sound by the ear. Hearing would be similar to having a conversation with Charlie Brown’s mother (“WHA WHA WHA WHA”); you can hear the noises but have no idea what is actually being said.
Listening is something we choose to do. Listening is a physical as well as a mental process. It requires concentration as to allow the brain to process meaning from words and sentences so we can form opinions, praise or respond.
Listening leads to learning about the person speaking or a topic. This can lead to more effective relationships, whether it be in your personal life or business. For me, this means using my DVR and pausing the game to acknowledge my wife and what she is saying.
How to become a better listener:
• Make eye contact
• Allow the other person to finish their thought without interruption
• Keep an open mind
• Use appropriate nonverbal signs like nodding your head, keeping your face animated, and noting your posture
• Avoid distracting behaviors like looking at a clock/watch or clicking your pen
• Respond appropriately
Next time my wife asks me if I’m listening, my honest response will be “I’m listening,” I hope.