Hearing vs listening: what are the differences?

hearing vs listening

Listening is an underrated skill. It’s essential yet often overlooked. But what’s the difference? Hearing vs Listening.

Hearing vs Listening

Listening is an underrated skill. It’s an essential, yet often overlooked, part of effective communication. To be an effective communicator, you need to know how to listen; it’s one of the most important skills you can have.

Listening is often misunderstood and undervalued: after all, we’ve been listening to people speak for thousands of years without anyone understanding the power of silent communication more than fifty years ago.

But listening isn’t enough on its own. You need to know what type of listening you’re doing. The two most common forms are active and passive listening.

They both serve a purpose, and each has its usage scenarios; however, it’s important to understand their differences so that you’re using them at their best potential in every situation and with every listener (both internal and external).

What is active listening?

Active listening is about putting the other person at the center of your attention and actively focusing on what they say. It entails the speaker and the listener focusing on each other, with the speaker being the primary focus.

It’s been called “the hardest and most important job in communication” because it requires active involvement on the listener’s part.

Unfortunately, too many people sit there while someone is talking to them or daydreaming about what they’d like to be doing instead.

Active listening isn’t about zoning out and hoping the other person will finish talking so you can get back to your thoughts; it’s about showing the other person that you are actively listening to them by focusing on what they are saying.

You can show active listening by paraphrasing, summarizing, and using open-ended questions to help the other person feel understood.

Passive listening

This is when you let someone else talk without focusing on what they say. You’re “passively” listening – with your mind anywhere else.

You can be “doing” something, but even then, you’re not really “here” in the conversation; you’re “here” in your head. You’re not “here” in the conversation when you’re doing this.

When someone is talking to you while you’re daydreaming or thinking about something else, you need to be “here” in the conversation to show that you are listening and paying attention to what the other person is saying.

What is hearing?

Hearing is the act of receiving a message. It’s not the same as comprehending what you’re hearing.

Hearing can be receiving the actual sound waves, or “what was said”, or you can receive the “meaning” of what was said (“what was meant”). This is where “hearing differences” come in.

Hearing is receiving the sound waves and decoding them. Hearing (receiving) differs from meaning when you add the “meaning” part. Hearing sounds is only half of the equation.

The other half is decoding them and understanding the meaning of what was said. So when someone says, “I’m going to the store,” we can hear that they said it, but we can’t understand what they meant.

We must add the “meaning” part to truly understand what was said. If we hear “I’m going to the store” but don’t understand what was meant, we can’t respond or interact with the other person.

Hearing differences

Hearing is receiving the sound waves and decoding them. Hearing (receiving) differs from meaning when you add the “meaning” part.

Hearing sounds is only half of the equation. The other half is decoding them and understanding the meaning of what was said. This is where the “hearing differences” come in.

When someone says, “I’m going to the store,” we can hear that they said it, but we can’t understand what they meant. We must add the “meaning” part to truly understand what was said.

If we hear “I’m going to the store” but don’t understand what was meant, we can’t respond or interact with the other person.

If someone says, “I have to go to the store,” we can hear the words and understand what was meant, but we can’t understand what was said. We can’t “hear” the actual sound waves – we can only “hear” the meaning.

Communication is one of the most important skills you can learn. It can improve your life in so many ways.

And yet so many people struggle with it. Communication is essential in many aspects of life.

Whether you want to be a better employee, parent, better friend, better partner, or want to be understood better in your everyday interactions with others, communication skills can help you achieve your goals.

Be sure to remember that communication is not just one-way. It’s important to communicate with others, but it’s also important to be heard.

It’s important to understand the difference between hearing vs listening. When you understand the differences between these two important communication skills, you’ll be able to use them in the most effective ways possible.

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