The Difference Between Listening and Hearing

The Difference Between Listening and Hearing

The difference between listening and hearing

In the midst of a heated conversation or argument, there is no different between what we hear and what is said. The words are words, and they mean what they mean. At their core, however, words aren’t simply words. Listening and hearing are two very different actions.

In a biological sense, hearing is the process by which the brain receives sound signals, though sound itself can be interpreted a few different ways, which might not be accurate.

The brain acclimates itself to certain stimulus habitually, like a bus that drives by your apartment every afternoon. For a few days or weeks, the noise of the bus will momentarily distract you–and then it won’t anymore.

Dishabituation is the opposite process, by which you notice absence of sound. This process revolves around hearing and interpreting sound but is actually a form of listening, of paying attention to understand what a sound means. To hear someone say something means that you received the sound signals; listening means you’re acknowledging, conceptualizing, and paying attention to the context of the speech. As with literature, the objective of mindful thinking is to hear the words the same way the narrator feels them.

Everyone wants to be understood and accepted, but for that to happen, people have to talk, and other people have to listen to — and not just hear — what they say.

It’s not always easy to do this. We have a tendency to argue with, or give advice to, or defend others even when they simply wish to open up and share their feelings. If you respond like this, it doesn’t mean you’re a non-understanding person…it just means you’re not really listening.

When you’re busy trying to formulate the best responses possible, even if you truly believe them, then you’re not doing your best to see the situation the way the other person sees it.

There’s a time for both. If someone you know just suffered a major breakup, and they’re having trouble adjusting, they likely need some guidance for moving forward, but first, they may just need to embrace how much the situation hurts them in the first place. Same goes for most problems people have in life. Feeling alone in our emotions, like nobody understands them, can be a major deterrent to self-growth, perhaps the single greatest.


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