What is the Difference Between Listening vs. Hearing?
Hearing takes place when something disturbs the atmosphere and that disturbance takes the form of pressure waves that strike the ear drums as sound. It’s the way sound is perceived. Listening is different. It expands on hearing when the individual pays attention to the meaning of what they hear. While hearing and listening may be words that are used interchangeably, at their core, listening and hearing are two very different practices.
Listening Vs Hearing
Sound can be interpreted in exponential ways. A psychological process known as Habituation in which the brain acclimated itself to a certain stimulus can demonstrate the difference between listening and hearing. For example, a train goes by at the same time every day. For a while that might be perceived as a disturbance but after a period of time the brain habituates to that auditory input. In contrast, Dishabituation is when the brain notices the absence of normal stimuli. If the train misses a day, the brain will notice that. Therefore, listening is when one pays attention to understanding what a sound they are hearing is. To take it further, listening is about finding meaning in what is heard.
When one says, “I hear you”, they are literally saying that they hear the sounds someone is making. However, when they say, “I’m listening to you”, they acknowledge that what is being said has some meaning, and that it is worth understanding.
Listening is not automatic, hearing is. Listening takes practice and intention. A simple way to understand listening is for the individual to ask themselves what they want from the other person when they want to be understood. The answer is, they want to feel like the other person gets them, not just hears them.
The most important quality of listening is to stepping aside and being mindful of the other person’s experience. This doesn’t mean having nothing to say or abandoning one’s own point of view, but merely setting it aside for the time being and fully listening to what is being communicated.
True listening requires a concession of one’s self-centered desires and genuinely focusing on the other person in the conversation. Listening actively, dynamically, and compassionately to another human being not only appreciates them, but helps them to appreciate the individual in turn.
One simple and effective way to practice listening for the individual to relinquish their defenses. When the individual starts feeling defensive and feels the need need to protect themselves from something the other person is saying then that’s the time to relax their point of view and listen. It may seem counter-intuitive, but it works.
Listening is about dialogue. And dialogue is about connection. And connection fosters deeper intimacy and a closer bond
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