Hearing – you noticed a sound.
Listening – you made an effort to understand that sound and find its meaning.
Yes, there is a distinction and it’s important. Pay attention because many conversations go awry because of this distinction.
In some circles, listening properly, as I would call it, is referred to as active listening. In the simplest terms, it means you have understood the message and have retained it, and if you are in a one-to-one conversation, the speaker feels that she or he has been heard and acknowledged.
A few suggestions to improve listening skills:
- Consciously tell yourself that you are switching on and listening
- Reduce or eliminate distractions such as mobile phones and background noise from TVs, radios etc.
- Refrain from jumping to solutions, suggestions or rebuttals
- Observe the speaker’s body language
- Re-state what you think you have heard in your own words
Abide by the “two ears, one mouth” rule – listen more and talk less!