How to know the difference between hearing and listening

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When people speak we might hear the words coming out of their mouths but we may not really be listening to what is being said. You may think your acting skills are great but people can tell quickly that your ears are working but your mind is not engaged. Here are the common behaviors that block your ability to actively listen and achieve understanding.

Rehearsing—Your attention is on designing and preparing your next comment. You look interested, but your mind is racing because you are thinking about what to say next.

Judging—If you prejudge somebody as incompetent or uninformed, you don’t pay much attention to what that person says. Judgments should only be made after you have heard and evaluated the content of the message.

Identifying—You take everything people tell you and refer it back to your own experience. You launch into your story before they can finish theirs.

Advising—You don’t have to hear more than a few sentences before you begin searching for the right advice. However, while you are coming up with suggestions you may miss what is most important in the conversation.

Sparring—You argue and debate with people who never feel heard because you are so quick to disagree. Your main focus is on finding things to disagree with.

Derailing—You change the subject and derail the train of conversation when you get uncomfortable or bored with a topic. Another way of derailing is by joking and making light of what the person is saying.

Placating—“Right . . . Absolutely . . . I know . . . Of course you are . . . Incredible . . . Really?”—You want to be nice, pleasant, and supportive. So you agree with everything. You listen just enough to get the drift, but you are not really involved.

Listening effectively to others can be your most fundamental and powerful communication tool. When someone is willing to stop talking or thinking and truly listen to others, all interactions become easier, and communication problems are all but eliminated. Avoid these behaviors to reach understanding.


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