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Hear From or Listen To … So What?

“Raise your arm if you believe you are a better than average listener?”

“Keep your arm raised if anyone has said, “Thank you for listening”, in the last two weeks.

I ask these two questions at the beginning of a workshop and usually, everyone raises their arm to the first question, and the majority of attendees take them down in response to the second question.

Why might this be?

Primarily, we make the mistake of believing that listening and hearing is the same thing. In addition, living in a fast-paced, multi distracting society, we feel we have little or no time to be fully present enough to deeply listen to another person.

A typical response is that listening and hearing is the same thing. Unless you are audibly impaired we can all hear, yet only a few choose to listen.

Hearing is passive, it is an ability, it happens without our thinking. For example, someone calls your name out across a noisy room, you hear it, a train passes whilst you are sleeping, you hear it until you get used to it. We hear everything

Listening is active; it is a skill, even though it looks like you’re not doing anything. You have to decide to listen, to pay attention; you have to be a listener. Research shows that when speakers feel they are being heard, they are more likely to like and trust them.

One of the simple ways I choose to remember the difference is, “We hear from”, and, “We listen to”.

“We hear from”, means we don’t have to do anything to hear them.

“We listen to”, means we have to choose to listen to the person speaking.

Exercise

Next time you are walking in the park, stop and intend to notice the various sounds coming at you, maybe an aeroplane, children laughing, people talking, cars passing by, road works, music playing, and so on. Then, notice that you had not taken any notice of these sounds until you turned your attention to them. Yet they were always there, our brain had filtered them out as not important. Now, whilst paying these sounds your full attention, try to send someone a text message. Notice how your mind has to focus on one or the other, and how difficult it is to focus on both things at the same time.

How many times do we tune out, barely even hearing, let alone listening, to our work colleague, our partner, and our children? How many times do we try to listen to more than one thing or one person?

Take this new awareness into the workplace and your home life, and set your intention to focus on being more fully present, noticing more sounds, remaining silent and letting the other person talk.

His gestures were few. But the attention he gave me, his appreciation of what I said, even when I said it badly, was extraordinary. You’ve no idea what it meant to be listened to like that.

– Dale Carnegie, author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People”

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Colin D. Smithhttps://dexteritysolutions.co.uk/
COLIN is ‘The Listener’, a listening skills specialist and the ‘go-to’ person for individuals and teams who want to be heard, think for themselves, and transform their business and personal relationships through active listening. Colin has that innate ability to actively listen to people. He works with management, project and creative teams, facilitating the development and improvement of their listening and thinking skills. Thereby equipping them to more effectively meet their business, relationship and service challenges. He also works privately with individuals, enabling them to feel heard and valued, to think more clearly for themselves, articulate their creative ideas, address their personal concerns, and achieve their personal and professional goals. Colin has had a varied and successful career in consultancy, business development, IT and customer support, across many sectors, including finance, motor, retail and the NHS. In looking back he realises that much of his success was due to his listening and connecting abilities. His inquisitive and curious mind also enables him to explore, with others, unusual, thought-provoking, yet grounded, observations and alternative approaches to business, people, systems, and change. To make things happen, and to take ideas and thinking further, he connects his Clients with his trusted network of entrepreneurs, consultants, thought leaders, free thinkers, coaches and change makers.

5 COMMENTS

  1. This is great. This is a big push for me as a person and the company I work for. We call it engaged listening and for me when I become quiet and still I hear the sound of life. We must become still to hear.

  2. Thank you for this! As someone who also has listened for a living, you are absolutely correct about the distinction between hearing & listening which is the understated but most important sibling in the communication family!?

    • I appreciate you reading and commenting Dariene. I concur totally with your comments. The challenge I feel is how do we get people to recognise that they are in fact not listening, they are just hearing. Much of my work is getting them to appreciate the difference. Yet, as you rightly say, it is the most important element of communication. Thank you, Colin

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