Listening vs Hearing

  • Blog >
  • Listening vs Hearing
RSS Feed

Listening vs Hearing

What’s the difference between listening and hearing and does it matter? Recently I had an experience that highlighted the differences. A phone solicitation came late one afternoon from an organization I’ve donated money to in the past. The woman began asking me questions, and hearing me respond, continued her script.


However, her comments had nothing to do with my answers. Apparently she heard my voice but didn’t bother listening to what I was really saying. She acted as if I were saying, no, I’m not interested in your service, and would say, “Yes, I understand, but please let me tell you more!” After several attempts to tell her I was already a subscriber, I finally hung up, realizing it was a waste of time to try to get her attention.


After the phone call, I began to think about a time recently when I heard what was being said to me but in retrospect I definitely wasn’t listening. There was so much internal chatter (in my head) about their words that bothered me that I stopped listening for what was really being said, between the words.


Albert Mehrabian wrote in a book called, Silent Messages many years ago that only 7% of what is communicated is verbal (that’s what we hear). The other 93% is communicated by tone (38%) and body language (55%) – that’s what we notice when we’re really listening. WOW—93% isn’t actually said out loud—what a case for listening vs. hearing!


Don't you think that we'd have far fewer conflicts and misunderstandings if we really started listening? What do you notice beyond the words that you hear? What are those around you really saying and are you really listening? What might be different in how you respond?