Management Articles


Hearing vs. Listening

By: Susan Dunn

Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach, coaches individuals and executives in emotional intelligence, and offers workshops, presentations, trainings, Internet courses and ebooks.  She is a regular presenter for the Royal Caribbean and Costa cruiselines.  Visit her on the web at and for FREE ezine.


Hearing - To perceive or apprehend by the ear; to gain knowledge of by hearing; to listen to with attention.

Listening - To pay attention to sound; to hear something with thoughtful attention; to give consideration; to be
alert to catch an unexpected sound.


To really key in to what the person is saying and not saying. To look for the meaning and the feelings behind what is being said. To go beyond the words. Giving your deepest level of attention. vs. Simply receiving the words which can become only "sounds". Not trying to understand, ot get below the surfce. Giving only peremptory attention. Not absorbing feelings or taking in any new information.


Mary sat and let Nancy explain the new project she wanted to initiate, but Mary's mind was already made up. She had made up her mind beforehand she didn't want to do and had closed her mind. She just sat and let Nancy explain as a matter of courtesy, but didn't take in any new information. She had already decided to say "no".

Yi Ling on the other hand was vitally interested in what Paul had to say about the new project he was proposing. She repeated back what she thought she was hearing. She asked questions. She asked how Paul felt about this and that, and expressed her own feelings. She went below the surface to see what Paul intended to accomplish. She was actively involved in the conversation. She listened with her heart as well as her intellect.

Key Point

Hearing requires very active participation. You can listen to sounds, but to hear what the person means, and what they're trying to explain to you takes being receptive at many levels and is hard work.

Related Distinction
++Feeling vs. Touching
++Holding vs. Carrying
++Savoring vs. Tasting


You can't connect with people unless you’re able to hear, and not just listen. Building your communication skills is important to your emotional intelligence and will increase your success and happiness with both work and relationships.

© copyright, Susan Dunn, 2004

Other Articles by Susan Dunn

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. ManagerWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. ManagerWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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