Hearing vs Listening

Listening as Opposed to Hearing

Definitions Comparison

The notions of “hearing” and “listening” are often used interchangeably, yet the definitions of these words and their meanings are not to be confused. The Cambridge Dictionary defines these words as follows:

  • to hear — to receive or become conscious of a sound using your ears;
  • to listen — to give attention to something you can hear or to a person who is speaking.

It comes down to one acknowledging words being spoken, but not giving the “sounds” peremptory attention. Not looking for meaning or recognizing the feelings behind what is being spoken. Versus devoting the deepest attention and making an effort to comprehend all intents and purposes. Feelings begin to matter when understanding the full picture is concerned.


James took a seat and allowed Tony to take the stage and explain the project he had in mind, however, James had already had his reply ready even before Tony started. James was going to refuse to help regardless of what Tony had to offer. So he simply sat and let Tony do the talking out of courtesy, but had no intention of taking in any new information coming his way. The decision to say “no” had already been made.

Tina, on the contrary, was excited to have Cory explain his upcoming project. As he was proposing and sharing ideas, Tina repeated them back wanting to clarify and confirm she’s been understanding his ideas. She asked about Cory’s towards particular questions, expressed concerns and showed her own feelings. In other words, Tina was actively involved in the conversation. Tina’s involvement was more than just hearing, she listened with her and soul.

Key Insight

Listening goes below the surface and calls for active participation. You can be hearing things around you, however, actually listening to what the person has to say, will require attention at many levels.

Just hearing is insufficient to productively connect with other people. You won’t be able to build up communication skills unless you are listening with your intellect and heart. These communication skills will reward you with success and happiness in personal relationships and at work.

The following distinctions are also precious food for thought: Touching vs. Feeling, Tasting vs. Savoring, Carrying vs. Holding.