Are we Hearing or Listening

For the last few years I remember experiencing people not being able to recollect a conversation or, a said statement from an important discussion, where they were pretending to pay attention. In the middle of a conversation with someone he/ she suddenly changes the topic, again pretending to be listening when not. I myself have zoned out several times when someone is talking, simply due to boredom, disinterest or a preoccupied mind. This happens in a face to face conversation,  although a lot more when people are talking over the phone where there is no way to tell if someone is actually listening on the other side.

Humans have been blessed with an extraordinary ability to communicate with each other without which we would be as mundane as everything around us. Hearing is a simple act of perceiving sound from the ear. Unless you are hearing impaired hearing simply happens. Listening, however, needs a conscious effort. It requires concentration so that your brain processes meaning from words and sentences. Listening is rarely taught because educators assume it’s synonymous to breathing – automatic.  ‘Listening Leads to Learning’.

Most people seem to be ‘Hard of Listening’ rather than ‘Hard of Hearing’. The result of which are ineffective decisions and/ or costly mistakes on a professional level. Whatever the amount, I am guessing you would be amazed at how much money is lost on a daily basis due to poor listening skills. On a personal front it could lead to hurt feelings and damage relationships. They say that 80% of divorce cases are a result of poor listening from one or both the partners.

So why does this happen?

Mr and Miss know it all's: We know everything about everything, so there is no need to listen. What new information can possibly come out of this conversation? Whatever we know is good enough to rule the world!
Too much too soon: Conclusions are driven out even before a sentence a completed by the speaker. We live in a world full of too much information and passing judgements is quickly becoming our second nature. More than often people listen to react rather than respond.  
Multitasking: Time constraints are our daily challenge and getting too much done all at once is a lifestyle preferred by all. Phone conversations are compulsorily accompanied by various activities where the voice on the phone just remains that….a voice.
Fault of the speaker: Yes, some people's conversations are actually boring, baseless, repetitive etc. There is also a category of people who speak too fast and do not allow the processing time for what has been spoken

Now how does someone listen?

Listening is an art, it’s a skill that needs to be worked upon and perfected with time. People who listen while worrying about their bills, or planning a vacation or finding a new job are clearly failing at it miserably. So how to get this right...

- Wait for it : Let the speaker complete what he/ she has to say before jumping to a conclusion

- Respond : Listen, pause, process and respond

- Focus : Doing too many things at once can be a recipe for disaster. Focus on one task at a time, slow is the new fast!!

- Keep it open : your mind. There will almost always be something to take away from any discussion

- Show some respect : No one likes to speak to an audience who is obviously not listening. Listeners let the speaker know they are listening by asking questions or by reaffirming the speakers message and that’s a sign of respect


Listening is most desirable and this is where effective communication transpires. This is how relationships are built, Careers made, memories created and a fulfilling life is lived. It is an underdeveloped skill which can be learned and improved. It starts with becoming a better listener, concentrating, keeping an open mind and giving feedback. A good listener is valued by everyone as they have succeeded on this road towards an effective communication.    


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