Hearing vs Listening?
In the London Underground, “Mind the Gap” is the constant warning to “see and beware” of the space between the platform and the train door…literally a matter of life and death! Boarding my blog, however, “Mind the Gap” is a 2-minute focus on the “valuable difference” between words or concepts that, without much thought, are otherwise used interchangeably.
What IS the difference, for example, between Hearing vs Listening?
First we all know that just because you hear something doesn’t mean you are -listening-. People often confuse the two by saying “yes I heard you” when in reality all they heard is noise rather than the actual words that were spoken.
Ever heard the joke/platitude: “Why did God give us one mouth but 2 ears? Because you should be listening twice as much you are talking!” What’s great about this is the reality that we, indeed, benefit more from listening than talking. The problem with it is how it sub-consciously gets us to associate listening with our EARS. Ears are for HEARING.
Hearing is Physiological but Listening is PSYCHO-logical! You hear with your ears, but you listen with your mind.
Sure, Listening “involves” Hearing…but also some other important “I-N-G’s” as well. When we Listen it is because we are hearing, attending, understanding, remembering, evaluating and ultimately responding!
Think about this: What is we invited ALL of our senses to the Listening Party? Think about it. Everything that appeals to our senses can be “listened” to the same way anything that is “heard” can.
For example, are you hungry right now? If you could anything in the world right now, what would it be? Did you find yourself “listening” to your body to “hear/feel” what “sounds good” to eat right now?
What about when the Dr. asks you, “does it hurt here? Here? Here? On a scale of 1-10, how bad would you say the pain is when I do this? This? This?” Aren’t you then sending your “mind’s eye” to the place on your arm he’s feeling for a break?
What about when the milk in the fridge is down to the last 10% and the “best by” date is borderline…don’t you smell the milk to see if its good to drink or not? Don’t you “listen to your nose” in that case?
Ever feel your way to a door knob in the dark/middle of the night? When you can’t see and are on your way to the bathroom in a place you aren’t familiar with and you are inching slowly in the direction of the door with your hand out “feeling for” the door so you don’t walk into it face first.
If we trade the word “hearing” with “observing” we’ll invite ALL of our senses to the Listening Party which highlights what listening is TRULY all about: The attention we pay to what we are observing!
Listening is something many think they are good at while OTHERS are bad at it…but trust me when I tell you we ALL suck. Why? Because we all have egos…and the ego doesn’t want to listen. Why? Because listening makes us vulnerable…it takes control away…we might “hear” something we don’t like, don’t agree with, don’t “sit well with” etc. In my opinion, listening is LOVE (the willingness to be vulnerable so either you or your beloved may grow).
Equating it with love, you will learn that listening can be just as valuable, if not more, than talking. You’ll often hear things that allow you to serve yourself and the other party better (example in my recent post about listening to elevator pitches).
One of my favorite quotes about listening is from Steven Covey (RIP). “Seek first to understand, and then to be understood”. If you listen to others and understand their situation, you’ll be in a much better place to then reply be of service.
If you are interested in learning about the barriers to listening, forms of non-listening or practice the skills of Active Listening, consider scheduling TWO Complimentary Sessions!