Listening Versus Hearing

listening vs hearing jay newkirk business consulting services good business practicesI had no idea that there were so many different interpretations of “listening” and “hearing.” Let me explain how I came to discover this.

During a recent conversation with my wife, Linda, we were talking about unfulfilled expectations, specifically as they relate to service providers who did not perform the tasks that they were asked to complete. As a problem solver, I immediately started thinking about why this might happen and what the solution could be, which led me to consider “listening” versus “hearing.”

My characterization of “listening” is when the person you are communicating with may be listening, or trying to, but is distracted by surroundings, texting, and other commotion. They may not even be looking at you, indicating that they are only barely absorbing what you’re saying and looking away from you and “halfway listening.”

My characterization of “hearing,” however, is when the person you are communicating with is concentrating on what you are saying, looking at you, focusing on you, and “hearing you.” They are complementing you and not doing anything other than absorbing what you are saying.

I took to Facebook to get other people’s definitions and was pleasantly surprised by the interesting comments I got, including:

  • I think too often we listen to respond instead of listening to understand.
  • Listening is knowing what was said, hearing is understanding why.
  • You can hear but not comprehend and the speaker thinks you are.
  • Listening – you don’t have a stake in the conversation. Hearing – you do.
  • Listening is an art . . . and a gift. The more you work at improving your listening skills, the more value you add to others’ lives.

So, the point is this: Regardless of your interpretation of the words, it’s important to grasp and focus on what the other person is saying.

What are your definitions of “hearing” versus “listening.” What kinds of experience have you had in your communication with others?