Are You Hearing..or Listening

This is one of those questions…some would say like which came first, the chicken or the egg. But there is a real difference. Think about the conversation with a loved one and they ask. “Are you listening to me?” And you are able to repeat back key parts of what they said. Were you listening?

“There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.”
G.K. Chesterton

This happened the other night, Nancy and I were watching TV and I was surfing the web on my phone and she asked, that question about the show. I was able to recite key lines, BUT…I was not listening; I was hearing. I was way more interested in the blog I had just found.

You are probably thinking well that’s all and good, but I’m a good listener. Are you? Ask yourself, are you hearing the words while you:

  • Formulate your own response
  • Are looking for ways to turn the conversation to your advantage
  • Are preparing to defend your point of view
  • Think about the next meeting you have coming up

Really listening is not easy. Studies have shown that when we are listening our heart rate goes up, our palms galvanize and our brains light up much more actively than when we are hearing.

I know a few people that are “really present” in a conversation. There is a palpable sense when they listen to you. I would love to say that I am one of them but that would not always be true. I can get distracted. I can also tell you that when I listen and am fully present to listening there is a whole different outcome to the conversation.

Listening is fully one half of the communication dyad. If we don’t listen then all sorts of negative events can happen.
– I can misunderstand an instruction and ship a whole truckload of the wrong insulation to a customer (yep I did that)
– Move this into the healthcare setting and a misunderstanding can mean life or death

Good leaders, great clinicians and good friends are able to listen deeply and they will seek clarity and understanding before they act or in some cases just hold the space for you while you figure it out.

Listening is as much (or more) about your state of mind as it is about hearing and processing the words.

Take Good Care

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