Hearing vs. Listening

Hearing is the special sense by which noises and tones are received as stimuli. Hearing is a sensory experience that gathers sound waves indiscriminately. We can hear something without choosing to listen.

Listening is a voluntary activity. Listening includes more than just sound being received by the ear and transmitted to the brain. Listening includes interpreting or processing that sound. Active listening involves listening with empathy.

Active Listening

When you listen empatheticly, you don’t just hear words. You hear thoughts, beliefs, and feelings. Empathetic listening is highly active and requires hard work. Following the steps below will help you to improve your listening skills.

  1. The first step is to decide to listen and concentrate on the speaker.
  2. Then, use your imagination and enter the speaker’s situation. Concentrate and try to imagine his or her frame of reference and point of view.
  3. Observe the speaker’s vocal inflection, enthusiasm or lack of it, and style of delivery. These are essential components of the message. If you are speaking face-to-face, pay attention to the speaker’s facial expressions and other nonverbal cues for more insight into the message.
  4. Listen without interruption. Note key phrases or use word associations to remember the speaker’s content.
  5. Use paraphrasing or clarifying questions to confirm that you received the intended message. Check your perceptions of how the speaker is feeling to put the text of the message in emotional context.
  6. Finally, provide feedback to the speaker.

Like other skills, listening skills improve with practice. Work on the listening skills that need improvement. Practice empathetic listening by attending, paraphrasing, and asking questions.

Source: The Federal Emergency Management Agency