We hear these two words together quite often, especially when someone is struggling to get their point across to another person, eg “You’re hearing what I’m saying but you’re not really listening to me.”
Does that phrase sound familiar? Did you pick up on the frustration? Yes? Well now you’ve just listened as well as heard!
But isn’t that the same thing? Up to a point they are.
Hearing is just the act of perceiving sound by ear. Listening however is the act of your brain obtaining meaning from the words you have heard.
There is a great line from the movie Pulp Fiction where Uma Thurman’s charactersays to John Travolta’s character while they are on a date, “Do you listen or do you wait to talk”? He replies, “I wait to talk but I’m trying to listen better.”
Ok, so if listening is actually getting your brain to do some work, how do you do that?
One way is to repeat to the person what you have heard. It will help you focus onwhat they have just said and process it better. If you didn’t quite get it right, the speaker will usually clarify it and give you another chance to listen and get the meaning.
An example of this would be when a friend says they can’t come with you to see a movie because they have argued with their parents from morning to night, about their mark for their English assignment was terrible and they just need to be alone for the night.
You might reply “ok you’ve been arguing with your parents all day and that mark has left you pretty upset – I guess you just need some space tonight.”
If my way doesn’t work for you, use the words that come naturally to you. You might find that as you are listening better, your friends are noticing and appreciating it. You might even find that it rubs off on them. Why don’t you give this a try next time?