Listen and Hear

As we learn more about listening, in the context of enrollment, we must make the distinction between listening and hearing.

What is the difference between “listening” and “hearing”?

Webster’s defines “hear” as “perceive by means of he ear”; also “to be capable of perceiving sound.”  “Hearing” – “the sense by which sound is perceived.”  As such, “hearing” is simply the act of receiving sounds.  There are hearing aids available for purchase.  But there are no listening aids.  Often I hear spouses and this is the conversation:  H: “You aren’t listening to me.”  W:  “I heard every word you said.  You said, ________________.”  By this the wife means that because she can repeat back the words spoken, it means she was listening.  It does not.  Our ears take in sound – that is the nature of the organ.



Webster’s defines “listen” as “to try to hear something” or “to pay attention.”  Listening is an intentional act.  It requires much more than allowing sound to come into your ear.  It requires that you tune in, place your attention on your speaker, let go of judgments and other thoughts and put yourself in a curious frame of mind.

Where do you listen?  Where do you not?  Where can you improve?


Let me leave you with one of my favorite quotes:  “I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”  –Robert McCloskey



About the Author

Cami McLaren

Cami McLaren

is the owner of McLaren Coaching. She has been coaching attorneys and management since early 2008. She wrote a book, published by the American Bar Association, "Coaching for Attorneys: Improving Productivity and Achieving Balance." She coaches attorneys and managers one-on-one, and provides in-house training designed to improve productivity and bring accountability to the organization.

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