What is listening? And what’s the difference between hearing and listening?
Hearing is sensing with our ears the words that are being spoken. Listening involves our other senses to help us understand the words being spoken.
When we hear we do it using our auditory system. When we listen we involve our auditory system plus our cognitive functions: paying attention, remembering, thinking and reasoning.
One hears words in a message. One listens to the words in a message and any others cues that complement the message. One hears voices and sounds. One listens to messages.
Listening goes beyond hearing the words that are being spoken. Listening means thinking about the message to understand it clearly and completely.
To listen is to hear the words, notice the tone of voice, sense the mood, and observe any other cues that complement the message.
What is listening? Listening is getting it.
The table below summarizes the differences between hearing and listening.
|Perceiving words and soundsMaking sense of sounds||Perceiving and understanding the words
Noticing tone of voice, inflexion, volume
Noticing mood of the speaker
Keeping mind clear of distractions
Noticing nonverbal cues, including body language, facial expressions, distance between people
|Perception (and sorting out) of sounds and voices||Applied cognition (Perceiving, paying attention, reasoning and remembering messages)|
|”I hear it”||”I get it”|
Why is all of this important, why do we care?
When we don’t listen, the speaker may feel invalidated and frustrated. The speaker may conclude that we don’t care or that we don’t have the capacity to understand him. Either conclusion may be inaccurate and lead the speaker to take actions we did not intend or desire.
Additionally, when we don’t listen, we may get the wrong message, if we get any message at all. We may interpret the message the wrong way. We may get to the wrong conclusions, we may misunderstand the speaker, we may miss important information.
Why does this matter? Because we may make decisions or take actions based on inaccurate information. This could be prevented by becoming a better listener.
Read more about Listening Skills